July 2010

Notes & Queries 7/19/10

July 19, 2010

WISE Completes First Full Survey The WISE mission completed its first survey of the entire sky on July 17, generating more than a million images, of which one of the most beautiful is surely the image of the Pleiades cluster below. We’re looking in the infrared at a mosaic of several hundred image frames with […]

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HD 209458b: A Comet-like Tail

July 16, 2010

The exoplanet HD 209458b is the subject of such intense scrutiny that the discovery of a comet-like ‘tail’ is almost anti-climactic. After all, this transiting ‘hot Jupiter’ has given us plentiful information about its atmosphere (including the presence of a massive storm), and its tight orbit around its primary, orbiting that star in 3.5 days, […]

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Jupiter Looms in Mission Plans

July 15, 2010

We learned in May that Jupiter’s South Equatorial Belt (SEB) had disappeared, an event that still has skywatchers puzzled, though it’s not without precedent. In fact, the SEB fades out every now and then, with recent fadings in 1989, 1993 and 2010, and we can expect an outburst of storms and vortices when the enigmatic […]

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‘Nemesis’ and Orbital Change

July 14, 2010

The idea of ‘Nemesis,’ a hypothetical dark companion to the Sun, won’t quite go away, and it’s possible that the WISE mission may help us either identify such an object or else demonstrate that it’s not there. The idea is simple enough: Sol’s companion would perturb the Oort Cloud in its orbit, causing comets to […]

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SETI and Detectability

July 13, 2010

by James Benford We recently looked at a paper by Duncan Forgan and Robert Nichol on the question of detecting extraneous emissions from an extraterrestrial civilization using technology like the Square Kilometer Array. James Benford (Microwave Sciences) has some thoughts on the issue growing out of his own work with brother Gregory on interstellar beacons […]

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ESA’s Rosetta in Flawless Encounter

July 12, 2010

Centauri Dreams readers should know the name Stuart Atkinson, whose excellent Cumbrian Sky site I’ve linked to before. I don’t have many occasions to reproduce poetry in these pages (although I did quote some lines from Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’ in honor of Huygens’ landing), but when I saw what Stuart had sent in to ESA’s […]

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WASP-3c: Implications for Finding Earthlike Planets

July 9, 2010

Learning about planets through inference is a necessary procedure, given the state of our technology. We do have a few direct images of exoplanets now, but when relying on radial velocity data or transits, we’re looking at the effects planets cause upon our measurements of their stars. With CoRoT and Kepler now yielding high-quality transit […]

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SETI: Stiff Odds Against Eavesdropping

July 8, 2010

Take a look at the frequency range of our SETI searches and you’ll see that we are probing into new territory. Project Phoenix, which ran from 1995 to 2004, used radio telescopes at Arecibo, Parkes (NSW, Australia) and Green Bank (WV, USA), working in a frequency range of 1.2 to 3 GHz. The BETA project […]

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Lutetia Encounter Approaches

July 7, 2010

Asteroids are much in the news these days, with Japanese and European missions returning outstanding photos and information about them. While we await testing on what may be fragments of the asteroid Itokawa from the Hayabusa team, we now prepare for another asteroid flyby on the part of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, which […]

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TrES-2b: Pushing Exomoon Limits

July 6, 2010

The planet known as TrES-2b is an interesting and useful place. Just over Jupiter mass, it orbits a solar mass star some 717 light years from Earth, a ‘hot Jupiter’ in a tight 2.47-day orbit. It’s also a transiting planet, discovered by the Trans-Atlantic Exoplanet Survey, which uses small, automated equipment and off-the-shelf technology to […]

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