December 2010

‘Citizen Science’ and Kepler

December 16, 2010

“With your help, we are looking for planets around other stars.” So begins a first-time user’s introduction to Planet Hunters, an online citizen science project that delivers exactly what many of us have been hoping for since the first Kepler results came in — a chance to use our own computers to help analyze data […]

Read the full article →

The Universe to Scale

December 15, 2010

Start with Buzz Aldrin’s footprint. Neil Armstrong took the iconic photo that ran around the world — it wasn’t the first footprint on the Moon because neither man took a photo of that, but Aldrin’s ridged bootprint will suffice. Blow the footprint up to full size and it fits neatly across two pages in Richard […]

Read the full article →

Voyager: Solar Wind Velocity Zero

December 14, 2010

When Voyager 2 was passing Neptune back in 1989, I stuck a video tape in the VCR and recorded the coverage — two video tapes, actually, because I wasn’t sure how much coverage there was going to be, and I didn’t want to miss anything. That meant getting up in the middle of the night […]

Read the full article →

ASPW: A Report from Colorado Springs

December 13, 2010

by Richard Obousy As project leader for Project Icarus, the ambitious successor to the British Interplanetary Society’s Project Daedalus starship design, Richard Obousy is deeply engaged with the advanced propulsion community. Here he gives us a report on the recent Advanced Space Propulsion Workshop, which he attended in November. It was a sizable gathering, but […]

Read the full article →

NanoSail-D Update

December 10, 2010

A phone call from NASA’s Kim Newton at Marshall Space Flight Center confirms what some of us were beginning to fear, that the ejection sequence that would separate NanoSail-D from FASTSAT, at first thought successful, has apparently malfunctioned. Although telemetry from FASTSAT looked good and seemed to confirm the ejection, the NanoSail-D team has no […]

Read the full article →

Matter/Antimatter from the Vacuum

December 10, 2010

New work at the University of Michigan, now written up in Physical Review Letters, discusses the possibility of producing matter and antimatter from the vacuum. The idea is that a high-energy electron beam combined with an intense laser pulse can pull matter and antimatter components out of the vacuum, creating a cascade of additional particles […]

Read the full article →

A New Duo of Exoplanet Questions

December 9, 2010

Yesterday’s successful launch of a SpaceX Falcon, and the subsequent safe return of the Dragon spacecraft after a three hour ride, puts an exclamation point on Dana Andrews’ paper on space and commercial viability, which was discussed here yesterday. We’re a long way from a sustainable space infrastructure — many reports note the fact that […]

Read the full article →

The Economics of a Space Infrastructure

December 8, 2010

Various accounts of what happened to Japan’s Akatsuki Venus orbiter continue to come in, but it seems clear that the craft failed to achieve orbit. Sky & Telescope has been keeping a close eye on things and reports that errant thruster firings evidently caused an unexpected rotation that resulted in an on-board computer putting the […]

Read the full article →

An Optical Lift for Solar Sails

December 7, 2010

While we wait for the NanoSail-D deployment, let’s talk about how to control a space-based solar sail. Japan’s IKAROS sail uses liquid crystal devices along the outer edge of the sail that actually allow the ground team to adjust the reflectivity of portions of the sail. Do that and you’ve created a situation where one […]

Read the full article →

NanoSail-D On Its Own – Deployment Next

December 6, 2010

NanoSail-D has always held a special place in my affections, probably because the solar sail effort has, until recently, been stalled. The IKAROS sail brought us into the sail age with gusto, but the sail team at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has persisted through budget uncertainties and public indifference in finding a way to […]

Read the full article →