May 2010

vIcarus: Interstellar Mission in Cyberspace

May 31, 2010

One of the most useful technologies the Project Daedalus team lacked when designing its interstellar probe back in the 1970s was the personal computer. Today’s effort to re-visit Project Daedalus can draw on the strength of intercontinental networking for fast communications and widespread computer availability to design a probe differently. It’s exciting to hear that […]

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To Join the ‘Galactic Club’

May 28, 2010

Is there a ‘Galactic Club’ of civilizations to which our species might one day deserve admission? If so, the club’s members are being mighty quiet about their existence. But David Schwartzman (Howard University) thinks it might be out there. In that case, he finds three possible explanations for the ‘Great Silence,’ our failure to detect […]

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The Milky Way from Outside

May 27, 2010

We sometimes forget the conditions under which great images get made. A few years back, in one of the earliest posts on his systemic site, Greg Laughlin (UC-Santa Cruz) showed the image you see below, a famous shot made by the Hubble telescope of the ‘Sombrero Galaxy,’ M104. It’s obvious why this image is a […]

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WISE: First Survey Ends in July

May 26, 2010

What a glorious image WISE has given us. The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer has finished three-quarters of its infrared map of the entire sky, with the final images scheduled for July, after which time the spacecraft will spend three months on a second survey before its solid-hydrogen coolant (needed to keep its infrared detectors chilled) […]

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Disturbing the Habitable Zone

May 25, 2010

It’s AAS week in Miami, and the American Astronomical Society usually gives us plenty to talk about. Inclined orbits, for one thing. In our Solar System, the process of planetary formation seems relatively intuitive. The eight major planets orbit largely in the same plane, reinforcing the idea that the cloud of gas that collapsed to […]

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A New Horizons Wake Up Call

May 24, 2010

Recently we’ve been talking about long-distance repair, and how any probe launched beyond the Solar System is going to have to fix its own problems rather than relying solely on transmissions from Earth. New Horizons, halfway to Pluto/Charon in terms of distance, isn’t yet in that category. It’s going to eventually make its way into […]

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IKAROS Aloft: Shaking Out Sail Technologies

May 21, 2010

Congratulations to JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, for the successful launch of the IKAROS space sail, launched from the Tanegashima Space Center along with the Venus Climate Orbiter yesterday evening US time. The launch was a beautiful sight via JAXA’s Internet feed and we now have the opportunity to shake down solar sail technologies […]

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Burying the Digital Genome

May 20, 2010

I once had an uncle who, in his eccentric way, taught me the glories of reading widely and across many disciplines. Every year he would visit us from Florida and each time he came, he was off on another tangent, usually a scientific pursuit of some kind, and now and then a venture into linguistics. […]

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A Cassini Double Flyby

May 19, 2010

Raw images from Cassini’s Enceladus encounter yesterday are becoming available, the most fascinating of which show the view of the plumes as the spacecraft approached the moon from the night side. And check the image below, which is an extraordinary combination of Cassini targets the like of which I never thought I would see. At […]

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Three Views of Icarus

May 18, 2010

Two versions of Icarus are on my mind today. Well, actually three. The first is the Japanese solar sail/solar cell hybrid called IKAROS, scheduled for launch today but scrubbed because of the weather at Tanegashima. The new launch date is Thursday May 20 at 2158 UTC (1758 EDT). IKAROS will piggyback aboard the JAXA H-2A […]

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