February 2008

Toscanini Through the Light Years

February 29, 2008

A friend of mine who knows more about classical music than anyone I’ve ever met, and who has turned his passion for it into a second career, asked me a question a few years ago that stays with me. A great admirer of Toscanini, he wondered whether some of the the conductor’s prodigious output was […]

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The Sun’s Exotic Neighborhood

February 28, 2008

We think about our interstellar neighborhood in terms of stars, like Alpha Centauri and Tau Ceti, but the medium through which our relative systems move is itself a dynamic and interesting place. The Sun is currently passing through a shell of material known as the Local Interstellar Cloud. And that cloud is, in turn, located […]

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Re-seeding Life from Space

February 27, 2008

I’ve always found the idea of panspermia oddly comforting. Growing out of the work of Swedish chemist and Nobel Prize winner Svante Arrhenius, panspermia assumes that life can move between worlds by natural means, and implies that planets with the right conditions will wind up with living things on them. That idea of all but […]

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The Ultimate Project: 10000 Year Journey

February 26, 2008

When you’re thinking interstellar, long time frames are inescapable. Are we capable as a culture of planning missions that last not only longer than a single human lifetime, but longer than multiple generations? Steve Kilston (Ball Aerospace & Technologies), with help from Sven and Nancy Grenander, clearly thinks so. The three are behind the fittingly […]

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Detecting Centauri Planets

February 25, 2008

What are the chances that we’ll find habitable planets around Alpha Centauri A and B? Centauri Dreams has long kept an eye on the work of Greg Laughlin (UC-Santa Cruz) and colleagues, who have been working on the Alpha Centauri question with ever more interesting results. Following their work on Greg’s systemic site has been […]

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Into the Cosmic Web

February 23, 2008

The more we learn about gravitational lensing, the more it becomes clear how pervasive the phenomenon must be as mass and spacetime interact throughout the cosmos. The most recent findings produced by lensing effects now limn structures so large that they dwarf the galaxy we reside in. Recently detected dark matter filaments, up to 270 […]

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42nd Carnival of Space

February 23, 2008

The 42nd Carnival of Space is online at Chris Lintott’s Universe, good reading for the weekend and a way to keep up with the growing number of astronomy weblogs. Centauri Dreams readers in particular will want to check out Emily Lakdawalla’s Showing Off Saturn’s Moons, examining these exotic bodies in connection with the recent series […]

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New Worlds Observer Advances

February 22, 2008

Centauri Dreams has long championed Webster Cash’s innovative New Worlds mission concepts, which would use a ‘starshade’ to block the light of distant stars to reveal their planetary systems. Cash envisions using multiple spacecraft for this assignment, one the starshade itself, the other a telescope that would make the needed observations. After a series of […]

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Saturn’s Dark Materials

February 21, 2008

What exactly is that dark material spread so widely over Saturn’s various moons? From Hyperion to Iapetus, Dione and Phoebe, we find a black substance coating a wide range of objects, suggesting that whatever the stuff may be, there must be a common mechanism for moving it from one moon to another. A series of […]

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The Reconfiguration of the Stars

February 20, 2008

Even the most adamant enthusiasts for METI — Messaging to Extraterrestrial Civilizations — haven’t come up with anything as audacious as what virtual reality guru Jaron Lanier is now talking about. Writing for Discover Magazine, Lanier has the notion of rearranging basic material objects to make them not just noticeable by aliens but blindingly obvious. […]

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