February 2010

Enceladus Hotspots, and Memories of Orion

February 26, 2010

Although we’ve been preoccupied largely with theoretical matters this week, I don’t want it to close without reference to the new Cassini imagery of Enceladus. This shot was made at a phase angle of 145 degrees when Cassini was about 14,000 kilometers from Enceladus, during the flyby of November 21. The remarkable jets spraying from […]

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Other Life in the Multiverse?

February 25, 2010

What conditions would you say are ‘congenial to life’? For physicist Robert Jaffe and colleagues at MIT, the phrase refers to places where stable forms of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen can exist. Jaffe explains why: “If you don’t have a stable entity with the chemistry of hydrogen, you’re not going to have hydrocarbons, or complex […]

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Millis: Approaches to Interstellar Flight

February 24, 2010

How do you go about pushing the frontiers of propulsion science? Tau Zero Foundation founder Marc Millis discussed the question in a just published interview with h+ Magazine. One aspect of the question is to recognize where we are today. Millis is on record as saying that it may be two to four centuries before […]

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Missions Cometary and Otherwise

February 23, 2010

The Stardust spacecraft recently completed a course adjustment maneuver as it continues on its way to comet Tempel 1. The burn began at 2221 UTC on February 17 and lasted 22 minutes and 53 seconds. The net result: A change of the spacecraft’s speed by 24 meters per second. That may not sound like much, […]

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Relativistic Rockets, Antimatter and More

February 22, 2010

Interstellar theorist Richard Obousy (Baylor University) has some thoughts about William and Arthur Edelstein’s ideas on flight near the speed of light. As discussed in these pages on Friday, the Edelsteins, in a presentation delivered at the American Physical Society, had argued that a relativistic rocket would encounter interstellar hydrogen in such compressed form that […]

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FOCAL: Last Call for IAC Papers

February 20, 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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Pushing Up Against Lightspeed

February 19, 2010

Time dilation has long been understood, even if its effects are still mind-numbing. It was in 1963 that Carl Sagan laid out the idea of exploiting relativistic effects for reaching other civilizations. In a paper called “Direct Contact Among Galactic Civilizations by Relativistic Interstellar Flight,” Sagan speculated on how humans could travel vast distances, reaching […]

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Outstanding Early Imagery from WISE

February 18, 2010

We’re keeping a close eye on the WISE mission (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) and the possibility of identifying brown dwarfs closer to our Sun than the Centauri stars. But WISE’s targets are numerous, and the early imagery coming back from the mission is promising indeed. To check out the capabilities of this space-based observatory, have […]

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Star Formation in the Early Universe

February 17, 2010

We know that new stars form out of cold gas and dust that are present in galaxies, but what accounts for the fact that star formation is slower than in earlier eras? Three to five billion years after the Big Bang, galaxies turned out stars at a much faster clip than they do today. The […]

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‘Smart Dust’ and Solar Sails

February 16, 2010

My interest in solar sail concepts goes back to the days of Cordwainer Smith’s “The Lady Who Sailed the Soul,” a science fiction tale (Galaxy, April 1960) whose evocative conjuring of a fantastic future has always stayed with me despite far more realistic sail concepts from the pen of Arthur C. Clarke and Poul Anderson, […]

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