January 2010

Klaes on Avatar: Part Two

January 16, 2010

by Larry Klaes We now wrap up Larry Klaes’ essay on Avatar (and Centauri Dreams’ coverage of the film) with a look at how and why humans will expand into the cosmos, with reflections on our society’s portrayal of aliens and of itself. How much does popular entertainment shape our conception of what we can […]

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Avatar: Film-making and Human Destiny

January 15, 2010

by Larry Klaes Judging by the abundant reaction to Larry Klaes’ recent article on James Cameron’s Avatar — and by the continuing commentary in society at large — Larry seems to be vindicated when he says the film has become a focal point of discussion for many in the general public. Having engaged in the […]

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Direct Spectrum of an Exoplanet

January 14, 2010

Astronomers have obtained a direct spectrum of the exoplanet HR 8799 c, about 130 light years from Earth, and if you watch your definitions, it’s possible to call this the first ‘direct spectrum’ of such a world. I throw in the qualifier because way back in 2004, astronomers using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope and […]

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Exoplanets: Mapping a Distant Blue Dot

January 13, 2010

Glints of light off oceans or ice caps would be useful indeed as we try to figure out what we’re seeing on a distant terrestrial world. One day we’ll have the kind of instrumentation that can make direct observations of a planet like this, separating its light from that of its star. A ‘terrestrial planet […]

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Solar Sails: State of the Art 2010

January 12, 2010

Centauri Dreams readers know that I’m a great supporter of solar sailing as a technology that has interstellar ramifications as well as immediate practical value right here in the Solar System. What’s particularly appealing about the solar sail is that we’ve already shaken out many of the problems and are ready to begin testing sails […]

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Icarus: An Early Look at Communications

January 11, 2010

The Project Icarus weblog is up and running in the capable hands of Richard Obousy (Baylor University). The notion is to re-examine the classic Project Daedalus final report, the first detailed study of a starship, and consider where these technologies stand today. Icarus is a joint initiative between the Tau Zero Foundation and the British […]

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FOCAL: A Renewed Call for Papers

January 9, 2010

Every few weekends as we move toward the March 5 deadline for submission of abstracts to the next International Astronautical Congress, I’ll re-run this call for papers that I originally published in December. The Tau Zero Foundation hopes to energize discussion of FOCAL in the astronautical community and create a growing set of papers analyzing […]

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Second Smallest Exoplanet Yet Discovered

January 8, 2010

With the American Astronomical Society meeting now wrapped up in Washington, we’re left to mull over the highlights, particularly the Kepler results. But the Keck Observatory also contributed compelling exoplanet news in the form of HD156668b, a planet some eighty light years from earth in the direction of Hercules. Working with Keck data, a research […]

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Massive Stars: Poor Prospects for SETI

January 7, 2010

We’ve long speculated about astrobiology on planets around stars like the Sun, and lately the thinking has moved to M-class dwarfs and whether or not they could be circled by habitable planets. But what about massive stars, classes A and B, where we’re looking at two to fifteen times the mass of the Sun? New […]

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Solar Systems Like Ours in the Minority

January 6, 2010

William Borucki’s talk about the early Kepler findings on Monday created the biggest spike in traffic I’ve ever seen on Centauri Dreams, enough to blow through our memory allocation and crash the site for about twenty minutes. I had to reboot the server and up the memory to get back online, a tribute to the […]

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