November 2010

A FOCAL Mission into the Oort Cloud

November 15, 2010

After all this time, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea of massive objects in space as lenses, their distortion of spacetime offering the ability to see distant objects at huge magnification. On Friday we saw how the lensing effect caused by galactic clusters can be used to study dark energy. And […]

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Gravitational Lensing Probes Dark Energy

November 12, 2010

Abell 1689 is one of the most massive clusters of galaxies known, making it a superb venue for the study of dark matter. That’s because the cluster, some 2.2 billion light years away, creates gravitational lensing that magnifies and distorts the light from galaxies far beyond it. Astronomers used Abell 1689 in 2008 to identify […]

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Hartley 2: Primordial Dry Ice

November 11, 2010

Keep an eye on the EPOXI site at the University of Maryland. New images from the Hartley 2 comet encounter are coming in, some of them truly breathtaking, as is the one at left. The jets clearly visible in the image can be linked with distinct areas on the surface of the comet, the first […]

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WISE: First Ultra-cool Brown Dwarf

November 10, 2010

“To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” said Mark Twain, one take on which is that the way we see problems shapes how we see solutions. That fact can be either confining or liberating depending on how open we are to examining our preconceptions, but in the case of Amy Mainzer […]

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The Poetry of SETI

November 9, 2010

Stephen Baxter’s “Turing’s Apples,” which originally ran in a collection called Eclipse Two (2008), is an intriguing take on SETI and the problem of extracting meaningful information from a signal. It’s a bit reminiscent of Fred Hoyle’s A for Andromeda (1962) in that the SETI signal received on Earth contains instructions for building something that […]

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Of Comets and Deep Space Aspirations

November 8, 2010

The Hartley 2 flyby was an outstanding event, and the only thing I regret about my recent travels was that I was unable to follow the action as the images first streamed in. By now, sights like the one at left have made their way all over the Net, so I won’t dwell on them […]

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Beyond Hartley 2: EPOXI’s Hunt for Exoplanets

November 4, 2010

I had hoped to be able to cover the Hartley 2 flyby today, but I’m traveling on Tau Zero business and have to write this entry early. Instead, I’ll at least keep the EPOXI mission focus by talking about the other half of this unique venture, an investigation of exoplanet systems. We can always talk […]

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Closing on Hartley 2

November 3, 2010

With NASA’s EPOXI mission closing on comet Hartley 2 at 12.5 kilometers per second, be aware that live coverage of the close encounter will begin at 1330 UTC (0930 EDT) on Nov. 4 from mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA TV streaming video will be available, and you should also be able to […]

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Millis: Thoughts on the ‘100-Year Starship’

November 2, 2010

by Marc Millis When Pete Worden (NASA Ames) spoke to the Long Now Foundation recently, he surely didn’t realize how much confusion his announcement of a ‘100-Year Starship’ study would create. The news coverage has been all over the map and frequently incorrect, ranging from intimations of a coverup (Fox News) to mistaken linkages between […]

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Enchanted with the Outer System

November 1, 2010

It’s staggering how much our view of the Solar System has changed over the past few decades. The system I grew up with seemed a stable place. The planets were in well-defined orbits out to Pluto and, even if it were always possible another might be found, it surely couldn’t pose any great surprise in […]

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