September 2010

A Bioengineered Future in Deep Space

September 16, 2010

NASA’s Human Research Program is all about risk reduction, finding ways to counter fatigue and mitigate radiation damage, among other potential issues in space travel. But what if a different kind of program had evolved? After all, back in the 1960s the agency was looking into the much broader question of how a human being […]

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Micro ‘Bots’ to the Stars?

September 15, 2010

Debra Fischer (Yale University) takes a brief look at the next thirty years as part of a Discover Magazine 30th anniversary section, an appearance notable more for what Fischer doesn’t say than what she does. Any hint of how her radial velocity studies of the Alpha Centauri system are proceeding? I wouldn’t have expected any, […]

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Detecting (and Understanding) Life Signals

September 13, 2010

A symposium celebrating the first fifty years of NASA’ exobiology program takes place on October 14 in Arlington, Virginia. ‘Seeking Signs of Life’ looks all the way back to 1959, when NASA funded its first exobiology investigation, an experiment for a future spacecraft to detect life on Mars. The actual exobiology program was established in […]

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Next Gen NEAR: Targeting an Asteroid

September 13, 2010

A manned mission to an asteroid sounds, on first hearing, like a true deep-space venture, and in the days when we thought of the asteroids as largely confined to a belt between Mars and Jupiter, so it would have been depicted. But today we know that a large population of near-Earth objects (NEOs) is out […]

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Of ‘Hot Jupiters’ and Short Lifetimes

September 10, 2010

Globular clusters held an early fascination for me, and I guess anyone who encounters these rich cities of stars for the first time wonders what it would be like to be on a planet deep inside one of them. The clusters appear to be distributed in a spherical halo around the galactic center, ancient collections […]

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ExoClimes 2010: Exoplanetary Atmospheres

September 9, 2010

The ExoClimes 2010 conference (“Exploring the Diversity of Planetary Atmospheres”) is well in progress in Exeter (UK) as I write, with its talks now being posted online and the hope that video of the presentations will soon be available on the conference site. Already the latest lingo is in the air, as in ‘Hermean,’ a […]

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Detecting Exoplanet Volcanoes

September 8, 2010

We’re entering the era of the ‘super-Earths,’ when rocky planets larger than our own will pepper the lists of new discoveries. These smaller worlds will occasionally make a transit of their star, as does CoRoT-7b, and that’s when things really get interesting. After all, we know that secondary eclipses, in which a transiting exoplanet swings […]

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Faces from Earth: A Personal View

September 7, 2010

by Tibor Pacher My friend Tibor Pacher quotes from Hermann Hesse on the front page of his PI Club site: “To let the possible happen, the impossible must be tried again and again.” No one works harder at pushing the boundaries of the possible in terms of public outreach on interstellar topics than Tibor, whose […]

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A Deepening Look at the Digital Sky

September 3, 2010

Sometimes as I click through imagery from spacecraft and observatories, I think about what the world was like before we had an Internet to deliver this kind of information. Consider the early surveys of the heavens, exemplified by William Herschel sweeping the sky in the late 1700s. Herschel’s survey would find a new planet, create […]

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Terraforming Ascension Island

September 2, 2010

Terraforming is an extreme notion, modifying an entire planet to create a biosphere within which Earth-based live could thrive. But a recent BBC story (thanks to Erik Anderson for the tip) takes on a kind of terraforming that we’ve already accomplished on the South Atlantic island of Ascension. Up until now, I had always thought […]

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