August 2007

Orbital Alignments: An Exoplanet Diagnostic Tool

August 31, 2007

The Rossiter-McLaughlin effect is an evolving tool for exoplanet research, one that has already begun to pay off. We recently looked at a paper studying whether this quirk of radial velocity methods could help in the detection of a terrestrial-class planet. The effect causes a distortion in radial velocity data during a planetary transit, one […]

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Watery Birth of a Stellar System

August 30, 2007

A Class 0 protostar is a star so young that the bulk of its light is emitted at long infrared wavelengths, blocked from Earth-based observatories by our atmosphere. It takes space-borne platforms like the Spitzer Space Telescope to make sense out of these objects, hundreds of which have now been identified, though few studied with […]

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Mini-Mag Orion: A Near-Term Starship?

August 29, 2007

Physics breakthroughs aside, are there more conventional ways we can reach the stars? Centauri Dreams often cites (with admiration) Robert Forward’s work on beamed laser propulsion, which offers a key advantage: The spacecraft need carry no bulky propellant. Forward’s missions involved a 7200-GW laser to push a 785 ton unmanned probe on an interstellar mission. […]

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A Relativistic Probe of Exotic Matter

August 28, 2007

We’d like to know a lot more about neutron stars. They’re doubtless the home of exotic matter of the sort we’re unable to create in any laboratory, and their extraordinary density leads to conditions in the space around them that are, shall we say, extreme. Gases whipping around three neutron stars at forty percent of […]

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Dark Energy Paints the Void

August 27, 2007

A vast, empty region in Eridanus may be giving us hints about the operation of dark energy in the distant universe. The region shows up on the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe’s map of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. The remnant of the Big Bang, the faint radio waves of the CMB provide the earliest […]

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Notes & Queries 8/25/07

August 25, 2007

Google Sky is a terrific idea, letting you roam at will through the heavens in a realm of high resolution imagery and information overlays that becomes a useful teaching tool as well as a dazzling personal excursion. The new feature mines imagery from the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and many […]

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Jupiter: Protection from Incoming Comets?

August 24, 2007

Jupiter’s protective role for Earth has long been assumed, the theory being that the giant planet deflects asteroids and comets away from the inner Solar System. But studies on the subject are sparse, and focus on long period comets in extremely elliptical orbits. What about short period comets, and in particular the Jupiter Family of […]

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A New View of Uranus’ Rings

August 23, 2007

We’re used to astronomical phenomena being relatively stable over the course of a human lifetime, which is why unexpected activity catches the eye. Think of the surprise over Io’s volcanoes when they were first revealed by Voyager. And now we learn that the ring system around Uranus has changed significantly since Voyager 2 photographed it […]

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17th Carnival of Space Available

August 23, 2007

The 17th Carnival of Space is now available, hosted by The Planetary Society’s Emily Lakdawalla. Astronomy Down Under offers some useful advice on choosing binoculars for celestial observing, while Brian Wang’s scenario for space technology in 2057 looks at what’s coming through the lenses of nanotechnology, advanced fission and fusion. Will carbon nanotubes lead to […]

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Asteroids: An Outer Belt Anomaly

August 22, 2007

Have scientists found a new category of asteroid? The evidence for basalt of a hitherto unseen composition on two small objects in the outer asteroid belt points to the possibility. An igneous rock, basalt would indicate that the asteroids were once part of a larger body, one that underwent some form of internal heating. The […]

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