August 2009

Planet Formation and Interstellar Winds

August 31, 2009

Any unexpected kink in the debris disk surrounding a young star is often attributed to a planet forming amongst the gas and dust. But that may not be the only explanation. In fact, new work by John Debes and team at NASA GSFC points to an alternative: The motion of the infant system through insterstellar […]

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Science Fiction and Interstellar Thinking

August 28, 2009

It’s easy to cite science fiction technologies that made their way into real life, starting with, say, submarines and the Jules Verne connection, and pushing on into air travel and, eventually, a spaceship to the Moon. It’s also easy to find numerous examples of science fiction being blindsided by technologies no one really predicted. I’ve […]

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Rethinking Planets and Stellar Metals

August 27, 2009

We often speak about planets migrating from the outer to the inner system of a star, something that helps us put ‘hot Jupiters’ in context. But what about migration within the galactic disk? It’s an idea under continuing investigation. In the absence of direct observational evidence, we infer migration and assume that older stars often […]

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Earth: Crash Course in Building a World

August 26, 2009

by Larry Klaes Tau Zero journalist Larry Klaes here gives us a quick overview of the history and future of the Earth, so vital for understanding not only how life emerged here but how it may appear around other stars. It’s good to keep this background in mind as Kepler and COROT go planet-hunting. Thus […]

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Building Infrastructure: The Tether Option

August 25, 2009

Conservation of energy means we never really get something for nothing. Nonetheless, the idea of propellantless propulsion is profoundly important for our future in space. A solar sail uses momentum from solar photons to get its boost, letting the Sun serve as the energy source so we don’t have to carry heavy fuel tanks and […]

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The Closest Dwarf

August 24, 2009

A conference like the recent on in Aosta offers plenty of opportunity to listen in on fascinating conversations, one of which had to do with what would happen if we found a brown dwarf closer to the Earth than the Centauri stars. The general consensus was that such a find would be a powerful stimulus […]

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Rethinking Stellar Populations

August 21, 2009

Back in April a paper appeared in the Astrophysical Journal that drew into question our view of star populations. We’ve assumed since the 1950s that we could count the stars in a particular area of sky by looking at the light from the brightest and most massive stars. In making this assumption, we were tapping […]

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A Stellar Gift to Education in Uganda

August 21, 2009

Do you have any astronomy books you could spare? Larry Klaes has passed along word from Mimi Burbank, a friend from the History of Astonomy e-mail list who lives and works in Uganda. Living in Kasese, Mimi has been involved in educational activities for people living in a rural area with few resources. She’s trying […]

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Gravitational Waves and their Limits

August 20, 2009

Sometimes what you don’t detect tells a scientific story just as important as what you do. In the case of LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) and the VIRGO Collaboration, we’re talking about setting limits to the amount of gravitational waves that would have been produced by the Big Bang. Those waves, predicted by Albert Einstein […]

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Notes & Queries 8/19/09

August 19, 2009

On Returning to the Moon Interesting to see that the recent debate in the pages of The Economist on whether or not we should return to the Moon has reference to the outer Solar System. The debate pits Gregg Maryniak (James S. McDonnell Planetarium, St. Louis) against Mike Gold (Bigelow Aerospace). Normally the Moon is […]

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