June 2008

New Precursors of Life Identified in Meteorite

June 17, 2008

We know that organic compounds have been found in meteorite fragments. But are they truly extraterrestrial, or the result of contamination here on Earth? The subject, always controversial, has been given new impetus by a paper that points to the former, with interesting ramifications. Did life begin on Earth or was the Earth seeded by […]

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Three ‘Super-Earths,’ One Star

June 16, 2008

The much anticipated Nantes conference on Extrasolar Super-Earths is already paying off big in the form of a triple system of such planets. Found around the star HD 40307, the planets are among the 45 candidate worlds recently identified by European scientists using the HARPS instrument, a spectrograph mounted on the European Southern Observatory’s 3.6-meter […]

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Science, Accuracy and the Media

June 14, 2008

This week’s Carnival of Space is up at Universe Today, and out of the mix I’ll point you to Ian O’Neill’s musings on the perceived accuracy of science. It’s a look at how tentative research findings can be misunderstood, a phenomenon that’s hardly new and often blamed on the media. But is it the media’s […]

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New Mineral Found in Cometary Dust

June 13, 2008

Does anybody remember an old science fiction movie involving an attempt to snatch meteors from space? We’re talking something made probably in the 1950’s, and all I remember is a group of one-man spaceships sent up — for reasons that escape me — to go after meteors. You can imagine the dynamics of trying to […]

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Solar Sail Mission to the Sun’s High Latitudes

June 12, 2008

Every now and then, someone writes to point out that when I write about the ‘nearest star,’ I am actually talking about the Sun. True enough, and despite our interstellar focus in these pages, I don’t want to neglect the contribution of missions like SOHO, Ulysses, Hinode, STEREO and others to our understanding of how […]

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Low Frequency Musings on Extraterrestrial Life

June 11, 2008

When it comes to SETI investigations, the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) being built in Europe offers intriguing possibilities. With a plan to encompass roughly 25,000 small antennae, arranged in clusters spread out over an area 350 kilometers in diameter, LOFAR may prove sensitive enough to detect the radiation leakage of transmitters in the radio and […]

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Frontiers of Propulsion Science: A Major New Text

June 10, 2008

Tau Zero Foundation founder Marc Millis has been anything but idle this spring. The good news, which I am finally able to share, is that he and a team of scientists have been compiling a book that is truly a first of its kind. Frontiers of Propulsion Science is a collection of essays about where […]

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Laser Tower Reminiscent of Lightsail Concepts

June 9, 2008

One way to advance interesting science is to give it multiple uses. If you can make one aspect of what you’re doing broadly accessible to the public, you can use that lever to promote understanding (and funding) for the rest of it. All of which comes to mind as I look at Joe Davis (Massachusetts […]

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Carnival Musings on Planetary Find

June 7, 2008

The latest Carnival of Space is up at Out of the Cradle, where this week’s interstellar focus is delivered by Steinn Sigurdsson (Penn State), who takes a look at the new planet with the tongue-twisting name: MOA-2007-BLG-192Lb. We focused in on this one just a few days ago, intrigued by its small size (about three […]

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Giant Telescopes for the Moon

June 6, 2008

Start thinking about large telescopes on the Moon and the imagination quickly runs riot. With no atmosphere to contend with, a 50-meter instrument of the sort now under discussion would be able to dwarf what telescopes can do on Earth. Exoplanet detections would be commonplace, but that’s only a beginning, for this kind of telescope […]

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