May 2010

Call for Papers: Searching for Life Signatures

May 17, 2010

Like astrobiology, SETI is a multi-disciplinary effort, one that pulls together our knowledge and speculation about everything from life’s origins to the development of planetary systems and the evolution of civilizations. It’s remarkable to remember that it was only fifty years ago that Frank Drake launched the enterprise by scanning a 400 kHz window for […]

Read the full article →

Life’s Adaptations Among the Stars

May 14, 2010

Gliese 581 d seems to be emerging as the exoplanet to talk about in terms of possible life, at least for now. You’ll recall that the initial furor was all about Gl 581 c, but that world now looks to be more Venus-like than anything else, while Gl 581 d may just skirt the outer […]

Read the full article →

Restoring Earth: The Space Imperative

May 13, 2010

I’ve heard of Dyson spheres and Dyson swarms, but what exactly are Dyson ‘dots’? As coined by Greg Matloff, C Bangs and Les Johnson in their book Paradise Regained, the term refers to a type of solar sail. These sails are not meant for moving things around the Solar System, but for reducing the amount […]

Read the full article →

Clues to Missing Matter

May 12, 2010

We’d better get familiar with WHIM, the Warm-Hot Intergalactic Medium. According to some cosmologists, this sparse gas exists in the spaces between the galaxies, accounting for up to fifty percent of the normal matter found in today’s universe. That would explain a conundrum. By ‘normal matter,’ I mean baryons, the protons and electrons of the […]

Read the full article →

Warm ‘Saturns’ and Their Moons

May 11, 2010

Recent work from the Lick-Carnegie team has found that the M-dwarf HIP 57050 is orbited by a Saturn-mass world with an orbital period of 41.4 days. What catches the eye about this exoplanet is its temperature, some 230 kelvin or -43 degrees Celsius, warm enough to place it in the habitable zone of the star. […]

Read the full article →

Voyager 2: The Art of Deep Space Repair

May 10, 2010

The fastest moving spacecraft in our Solar System is currently Voyager 1, which is moving at 61,419 kilometers per hour, a figure that works out to 17.06 kilometers per second. It’s always interesting to weigh such speeds against the hypothetical upper limits we would get from certain kinds of propulsion. Geoffrey Landis told me years […]

Read the full article →

Project Icarus Update

May 7, 2010

Is Jupiter the best place to collect massive amounts of helium-3? The Project Daedalus designers thought so. Back in the 1970s, members of the British Interplanetary Society set out to design a starship that would use pulsed fusion propulsion, with deuterium and helium-3 as fuel. Daedalus had mind-bending requirements, for the plan was to drive […]

Read the full article →

Finding Titan on Earth

May 6, 2010

Finding life on a world in the outer Solar System — think Enceladus or Titan for starters — would be an extraordinary step forward. Martian microbes, if they exist, might be evidence of contamination, or we might be evidence of ancient contamination from Mars, given the ready exchange of materials between our planets in the […]

Read the full article →

Artificial Intelligence Among the Stars

May 5, 2010

Talk of a ‘singularity’ in which artificial intelligence reaches such levels that it moves beyond human capability and comprehension plays inevitably into the realm of interstellar studies. Some have speculated, as Paul Davies does in The Eerie Silence, that any civilization we make contact with will likely be made up of intelligent machines, the natural […]

Read the full article →

SETI: Handling a Detection

May 4, 2010

The Stephen Hawking controversy continues to bubble, with discussion on the Larry King show and the appearance of David Brin’s essay The Other Kind of Aliens. It’s all to the good to get such discussions widely circulated, even if it can be dismaying to find that so many respondents believe the answers about how alien […]

Read the full article →