February 2011

Toward an Interstellar Bibliography

February 14, 2011

Back when I was first thinking about writing a book on interstellar flight, my reading began with Adrian Berry’s fine study The Giant Leap: Mankind Heads for the Stars. A science writer and novelist, Berry was science correspondent for The Daily Telegraph from 1977 to 1997, and is now the paper’s Consulting Editor (Science). The […]

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Seeing Into the Jovian Clouds

February 11, 2011

Adaptive optics changes everything for ground-based telescopes, removing the worst of the distortion caused by a changeable atmosphere and allowing astronomers to see objects with a clarity akin to a space-based platform. But the recent adaptive optics work at the Keck II telescope in Hawaii really put the technology to the test. Normally, astronomers use […]

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A Living Planet Between the Stars?

February 10, 2011

A planet that wanders through the night far from any star is a fascinating notion, one that resonates on some primal level with me because of my childhood viewing of the 1951 film The Man from Planet X. In the movie, a scientist on a remote Scottish moor observes a rogue planet as it approaches […]

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The ‘I Love Lucy’ Signal

February 9, 2011

As a fan of I Love Lucy since childhood, I’ve always been pleased that this show — and not, say, Milton Berle or Sid Caesar — is the one always referred to when talking about Earth being detected by other civilizations. And when I first thought about it, the idea that there was a detectable […]

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Exoplanets: Answering the Big Questions

February 8, 2011

When Geoff Marcy (UC-Berkeley) got started in the exoplanet game, it was the result of an apparent dead-end. As Marcy tells Wired.com in a recent interview, he had been working as a post-doc at the Carnegie Institute of Washington, feeling ‘a little bit like an impostor’ and wondering whether a career in science hadn’t been […]

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Orbiting Ganymede and Europa

February 7, 2011

Back in December, NASA published its report on the Europa Jupiter System Mission (EJSM), noting how mission goals that were separately developed by NASA itself and the European Space Agency have now melded into a unified strategy. We’re looking at orbiters around two of Jupiter’s moons, a NASA vehicle around Europa and an ESA orbiter […]

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Sails, Abandoned Concepts, and the Long Haul

February 4, 2011

Remember Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Wind from the Sun”? The short story, telling of a race from the Earth to the Moon via solar sail, appeared in 1964, portraying the vessel Diana and its 50 million square foot sail, all linked to its command capsule by a hundred miles of cable. In those days, the […]

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Musings on Kepler’s Latest

February 3, 2011

The data from Kepler’s first 136 days of operation could not be more interesting. As discussed in yesterday’s news conference, we now have fully 1235 exoplanet candidates from Kepler’s transit observations, and it’s worth quoting principal investigator William Borucki (NASA Ames) on the significance of the results thus far: “We went from zero to 68 […]

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The Remarkable Kepler-11

February 2, 2011

Last June Centauri Dreams readers were excited about the release of Kepler results, but miffed that so much of the most interesting material was held back for later release. Now we have the release of these data, and the first thing I want to do is direct you to Greg Laughlin’s systemic site, where you […]

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Kepler News Conference Today

February 2, 2011

The NASA news conference announcing the latest Kepler results will take place today at 1800 UTC (1300 EST) at NASA headquarters in Washington. You can follow the action live on NASA TV. The participants are: Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist, NASA Headquarters, Washington William Borucki, Kepler Science principal investigator, NASA Ames Jack Lissauer, Kepler co-investigator […]

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