April 2009

A Solar Sail Manifesto

April 30, 2009

I was startled to see the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics project make the pages of The Atlantic in its current issue. Novelist Thomas Mallon, in an essay largely devoted to solar sailing and The Planetary Society’s efforts in that direction, gives vent to some of the frustration, if not exasperation, many of us feel as we […]

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Renewed Challenge to the Dinosaur Killer

April 29, 2009

Some scientific hypotheses seem too perfect to be anything but true. Long before we understood the processes behind plate tectonics, the natural fit between the coasts of Africa and South America made the notion of their original linkage seem obvious. Although dismissed in many quarters as mere coincidence, the piecing together of earlier continents would […]

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Eccentric Orbits and Bold Predictions

April 28, 2009

The 100th edition of the Carnival of Space is now up at the One-Minute Astronomer site, where I learned of the existence of Christopher Crockett’s Innumerable Worlds blog. Christopher’s story on two gas giants around subgiant stars is well worth reading. He’s a UCLA graduate student now working at Lowell Observatory who offers a good […]

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Pushing Past Redshift Eight

April 28, 2009

No one has ever seen an object further away than the one at the center of the image below. It’s a gamma-ray burst known as GRB 090423, spotted by the Swift satellite on April 23rd and quickly observed by the Gemini Observatory and United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, both on Mauna Kea (Hawaii). The source is […]

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Getting Closer to an Exomoon Detection

April 27, 2009

Finding moons around extrasolar planets is an invigorating quest. After all, at least three moons around gas giants right here in our own system — Europa, Enceladus and Titan — are considered of high astrobiological interest. What about gas giants in the habitable zone of some distant star? The image below shows what a moon […]

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Upcoming Beamed Propulsion Conference

April 24, 2009

A note from Eric Davis (Institute of Advanced Studies at Austin) fills me in on the details of the upcoming 6th International Symposium on Beamed Energy Propulsion, to be held in Scottsdale, AZ during the first week of November. Much of the program is of interest to interstellar studies, ranging from the basic science and […]

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Asteroid Deflection by Tether

April 23, 2009

Diverting incoming asteroids is a high priority item, and so is a mission to a nearby asteroid for a close-up study of its composition and a shakeout of operating technologies. Think about the movie Deep Impact. Nukes are used to break up an incoming object, in this case a comet, but the resultant deadly chunks […]

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Ubiquitous Brown Dwarfs: A Dark Matter Solution?

April 22, 2009

Three brown dwarfs with masses that push up against the boundary between star and planet have been identified in IC 348, a star-forming region some 1000 light years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Perseus. The dwarfs do not appear to be gravitationally bound to a star although they are bound by the […]

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Water World Around Gliese 581?

April 21, 2009

Gliese 581, the star that teased us a few years back with reports of a ‘super-Earth’ planet in the habitable zone, is back in the news. Michel Mayor’s Geneva team has located a fourth planet in the system, Gliese 581 e, which weighs in at a mere 1.9 Earth masses, making it the least massive […]

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Wolf 940’s Brown Dwarf Companion

April 20, 2009

News about a nearby brown dwarf occupies us this morning, but first, a quick site update. The recent server problems did not, fortunately, result in the loss of any data, but I’ve had to make some temporary software changes to get Centauri Dreams back up. Expect more changes in coming weeks as I replace these […]

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