October 2008

IBEX: Viewing the Edge of the Solar System

October 18, 2008

Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) may be the perfect name for the mission to be launched on Sunday the 19th, but the word ‘interstellar’ has some people thinking this is a precursor mission, headed out for deep space in the fashion of the Voyagers or New Horizons. Nothing could be further from the truth. IBEX is […]

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Earthlike Planets: The Visibility of Youth

October 17, 2008

Directly imaging a terrestrial planet is going to be a tough challenge. Suppose you were thirty light years from the Sun, looking back at our star in the hope of seeing the Earth. You would face the problem that the Earth and its star show an angular separation of 100 milliarcseconds, a spacing so tiny […]

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Hellish Weather on ‘Hot Jupiters’

October 16, 2008

If the weather on Uranus, examined here yesterday, isn’t exotic enough for your taste, consider the situation on Jupiter-class worlds around other stars. A ‘hot Jupiter’ orbiting extremely close to its star spawns weather like nothing we’ve ever experienced, as modeled by computer simulations coming out of the University of Arizona. And while we can’t […]

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Vivaldi’s Nightmare: Seasonal Change on Uranus

October 15, 2008

No one ever said that Uranus was anything but a strange world. Nineteen times farther from the Sun than the Earth, the planet’s equator is tilted 98 degrees from its orbital plane. The tilt is so profound that if you work out the averages, the Uranian poles get more sunlight than the equator. That could […]

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Habitability: Tides Tell the Tale

October 14, 2008

How tides affect habitability has become a sub-genre within exoplanetary studies, a theme pushed hard by the gifted trio of Brian Jackson, Rory Barnes and Richard Greenberg (University of Arizona). You may want to browse through earlier Centauri Dreams entries on their work, especially this fascinating take on habitability around M dwarfs, in which the […]

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Finding Terrestrial Worlds in the Dust

October 13, 2008

Computer simulations are showing us how to detect the signature of Earth-like planets — indeed, planets nearly as small as Mars — around other stars. That interesting news comes out of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where a supercomputer named Thunderbird has been put to work studying dusty disks around stars similar to the Sun. […]

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The Space Outlook from Kentucky

October 11, 2008

If you can put together a consortium that takes in a variety of public and private organizations, then seed it with university expertise, you can start involving yourself in space research. Take a look at what Kentucky Space is all about. I’m reminded of its ongoing efforts by the fact that its blog is currently […]

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Earth as Pixel: The Extrasolar Lesson

October 10, 2008

Why would you want to take pictures of Earth from a spacecraft in orbit around Venus? Aside from the wish to see a familiar place from a distant location, our planet can also become an interesting testbed for exoplanetary studies. We’ve run into this idea before in the EPOXI mission, which is the combined extended […]

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Enceladus Flyby: Deep Into the Plume

October 9, 2008

The last time Cassini flew past Saturn’s moon Enceladus (August 11), temperatures over one of the so-called ‘tiger stripe’ fractures at the south pole were lower than had been measured on an earlier flyby in March. Two October encounters, one of them scheduled for today, may provide enough additional data to help us understand what’s […]

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Asteroid Encounters and the Public Response

October 8, 2008

Now here’s an interesting question. What would happen if a small asteroid like 2008 TC3, the three-meter object that exploded in the atmosphere late Monday, were headed for a large city? We were able to judge with a high degree of confidence that 2008 TC3 would pose no threat to the surface, and indeed, early […]

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