March 2009

Microwave Beaming: Groundwork for Sundiver

March 31, 2009

A ‘Sundiver’ mission may offer the best acceleration we can muster given the current state of our technology. New Horizons is currently moving toward Pluto/Charon at roughly 19 kilometers per second, but back of the envelope calculations can pull out 500 kilometers per second for a solar sail that makes the optimum close approach to […]

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Unusual Genesis of a Supernova

March 30, 2009

More on Saturday’s supernova story, which was truncated both because I was wrestling with a flu bug but also because I needed to verify that the supernova under study at the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel) was the event — SN 2005gl — examined in Nature this past week. A quick response from the Institute’s […]

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Explosion of a Gigantic Star

March 28, 2009

A star on the verge of exploding is an exceedingly useful thing. Identify it through a telescope and you can examine its telltale behavior before and after the event, in the process learning whether our existing theories about neutron star and black hole formation are supported by observation. We’ve seen stars on the order of […]

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Saturn’s G Ring Gets a Moonlet

March 27, 2009

by Larry Klaes Our fascination with ringed worlds continues to grow as we learn more about what circles the worlds of the outer system. If you’re looking for what may be the most spectacular ring system imagined — two ringed exoplanets locked in a tight gravitational embrace — be sure to read Jack McDevitt’s novel […]

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Surprise Find: Fragments of Fallen Asteroid

March 26, 2009

Asteroid 2008 TC3 is surely a sign of progress. The eighty ton asteroid, which made a spectacle of itself upon entry into Earth’s atmosphere on the morning of October 7, 2008, was the first space rock to have been observed before it collided with our planet. What we’re hoping, of course, is that any future […]

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Gravitational Waves: The Pulsar Connection

March 25, 2009

I, for one, would like to be in on the detection of gravitational waves. They flow naturally from the theory of General Relativity and ought to be out there, but none have ever been directly detected. What might make finding them easier would be a spectacular event, such as the merger of a pulsar and […]

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How Much Is a Planet Worth?

March 24, 2009

The current Carnival of Space is up at OrbitalHub, with a lively take on habitable planets from Charles Magee’s Lounge of the Lab Lemming. Magee, now a field geologist in central Australia, once operated a laboratory that analyzed crystalline and glassy solids — ‘everything from dead people to bits of the Moon,’ as Charles puts […]

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Life’s Left-Handed Secret

March 23, 2009

Twenty different amino acids go into making up the vast variety of proteins so essential to life. But why does life on Earth use only left-handed versions of amino acids to build them? After all, amino acids can be made in mirror images of each other. Jason Dworkin (NASA GSFC) notes the key issue. Mix […]

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Studying Habitable Planets with JWST

March 21, 2009

Spotting transiting planets is what missions like CoRoT and Kepler are all about. The next step, getting a read on what’s in the atmosphere of any transiting, terrestrial world, is going to be tricky. The biomarkers like ozone and methane, so crucial for determining whether there’s life on a distant planet, are beyond the range […]

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Icarus: Revisiting the Daedalus Starship

March 19, 2009

by Kelvin Long Project Daedalus was the first thoroughly detailed study of an interstellar vehicle, producing a report that has become legendary among interstellar researchers. But Daedalus wasn’t intended to be an end in itself. Tau Zero practitioner Kelvin Long here offers news of Project Icarus, a follow-up that will re-examine Daedalus in light of […]

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