October 2006

The Protonium Surprise

October 20, 2006

We’re a long way from knowing how to put antimatter to work in starship engines, but developments in this field are well worth following. Even in the short term, designs like Steven Howe’s antimatter sail hold rich promise for shortening travel times to the outer Solar System and for interstellar precursor missions. Howe’s sail would […]

Read the full article →

Out into the Celestial Pacific

October 19, 2006

It won’t get us to the stars, but the navigation practiced by ancient Polynesians — sailing by the stars — continues to fascinate a new generation. And since Centauri Dreams often cites the remarkable voyages of these people as they populated the Pacific, it seems appropriate to focus today on an Australian Broadcasting Company story […]

Read the full article →

The Case for ‘Accidental’ SETI

October 18, 2006

Many years back I wrote an article for Glenn Hauser’s Review of International Broadcasting called “Where the Real DX Is.” DX is the shortwave radio term for seeking out distant signals, a sport in which the smaller and fainter the station, the more interesting the catch. I was laboring with an old FRG-7 receiver to […]

Read the full article →

Gas Giants and Their Cores

October 17, 2006

How could you possibly study the interior of a giant planet orbiting another star? Especially when that planet is so drowned in its star’s light that we can’t even see it? Various methods suggest themselves, including transits, those cases wherein the exoplanet happens to pass between us and the star it circles. A transit gives […]

Read the full article →

The Million Year Snowstorm

October 16, 2006

Watching the snowline descend to ever lower elevations as fall deepens into winter is one of the great pleasures of the Canadian Rockies, an area better suited to train travel than any on Earth. And an image of snow-topped mountains in Alberta came back to me as soon as I read about another kind of […]

Read the full article →

A Ravishing View of Saturn’s Rings

October 14, 2006

This image is simply too beautiful not to run for the weekend, even though it’s getting play everywhere. The Sun is, of course, behind Saturn, backlighting the rings to reveal hitherto unseen detail. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute Gorgeous as it is, bear in mind that this is a composite in which the colors have […]

Read the full article →

Streaming Deep Sky Video

October 14, 2006

Next week we’ll take a look at some interesting new work on the formation of rocky worlds around red dwarfs (including what might show up in the habitable zone around such stars), and a French study on the characteristics of gas giant exoplanets. I also want to talk about a new SETI attempt looking for […]

Read the full article →

Watching the Weather on Upsilon Andromedae b

October 13, 2006

Imagine being able to measure day and night temperatures on a planet circling another star. That’s just what the Spitzer Space Telescope has managed, homing in on the atmosphere of Upsilon Andromedae b, a ‘hot Jupiter’ orbiting its parent star every 4.6 days. The results are, as you might expect for a planet this close […]

Read the full article →

Gas Giant Around the Red Dwarf GJ 849

October 12, 2006

The new planet discovered around the red dwarf GJ 849 isn’t just another footnote in the unfolding story of exoplanet discoveries. This world, a gas giant about 80 percent as massive as Jupiter, promises to teach us more about planet formation around M-class stars, by far the most common stellar objects in the galaxy (with […]

Read the full article →

Simulating Exoplanets, and the Payoff

October 11, 2006

Just how representative are the 200+ planets we have now found around other stars? Consider that the most frequently used detection method involves radial velocity searches, looking for the tiny wobbles in a star’s motion that provide clues to the gravitational presence of a planet. It’s a solid technique that has found numerous ‘hot Jupiters,’ […]

Read the full article →