November 2010

Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide on Rhea

November 30, 2010

Interesting chemistry on the surface of Saturn’s moon Rhea seems a natural conclusion following the announcement of the discovery of oxygen in its evanescent atmosphere. And what a difference from Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, whose atmosphere is not only thick, but packed with nitrogen and methane, with little trace of carbon dioxide or oxygen. Rhea’s […]

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Pulsar Navigation for Deep Space

November 29, 2010

We’ve seen some remarkable feats of celestial navigation lately, not the least of which has been the flyby of comet Hartley 2 by the EPOXI mission. But as we continue our push out into the Solar System, we’re going to run into the natural limits of our navigation methods. The Deep Space Network can track […]

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Astrobiology on the Cheap

November 26, 2010

Keeping space missions separate can be a difficult challenge when so many satellites are launched on a single rocket. Take O/OREOS (Organism/Organic Exposure to Orbital Stresses). The small satellite rode into space on an Air Force Minotaur IV rocket on the 19th, a launch we noted here in connection with the NanoSail-D solar sail demonstrator. […]

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A Cosmic Gravitational Wave Background?

November 24, 2010

A gravitational wave is a ripple in spacetime, one that follows naturally from the theory of general relativity — Einstein did, in fact, predict the existence of such waves back in 1916. Yet so far we have had nothing but an indirect detection in the form of the Hulse-Taylor binary (PSR B1913+16), a pulsar in […]

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A ‘Benchmark’ Brown Dwarf

November 23, 2010

The WISE mission has received a lot of press in terms of discovering nearby brown dwarfs, but it’s clear that finding low-temperature objects is a major investigation at many Earth-bound sites as well. That includes the UKIRT (United Kingdom Infrared Telescope) Deep Sky Survey’s project to find the coolest objects in our galaxy, an effort […]

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Mission News: Sails, Nebulae, Comets

November 22, 2010

NanoSail-D is now in space, following a successful launch on the 19th that involved eight satellites for university research programs and the US government. The sail experiment was carried aboard FASTSAT (the Fast Affordable Science and Technology Satellite) and is scheduled for release seven days after launch, with sail deployment three days later. We’ll soon […]

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Status Report on the Tau Zero Foundation

November 19, 2010

by Marc Millis A number of things have been happening recently with the Tau Zero Foundation, but most of them have been behind the scenes. Marc Millis, founding architect of the TZF and former head of NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics project, now goes public with his thoughts on recent activities and where the Foundation is […]

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A Red Giant Planet of Extragalactic Origin

November 18, 2010

I can’t begin today’s entry, which deals with an unusual planet indeed, without first mentioning the passing of Allan Sandage, a man whose work I have admired for my entire adult life. A protegé of Edwin Hubble, Sandage would refine the latter’s findings, re-examining Hubble’s distance measurements to galaxies like Andromeda and helping us fine-tune […]

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A Second Life for NanoSail-D

November 17, 2010

I notice that the Planetary Society is doing some fundraising for its LightSail program, in this case looking for money to help build a spare for the LightSail craft. Lou Friedman puts it this way in a recent mailing: “We need to build a spare to insure our plans. It’s the prudent move; much cheaper […]

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Fermi Bubbles: Remnants of an Ancient Jet?

November 16, 2010

Did the Milky Way once have a jet powered by matter falling into the supermassive black hole at galactic center? There is little evidence for an active jet today, but we do see jets like these in so-called ‘active galaxies,’ those that show higher than normal luminosity over much of the electromagnetic spectrum. Some jets […]

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