May 2011

SETI Search Focuses on Kepler Planets

May 16, 2011

The canonical notion of the ‘water hole’ is that the kind of life we are looking for in our SETI searches will only thrive where there is liquid water. A quiet stretch of the radio spectrum, the water hole has two natural boundaries: The 18 cm emissions from the hydroxyl ion (OH) and the 21 […]

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JBIS: Celebrating the ‘Red Cover’ Issues

May 13, 2011

Working on a book on interstellar flight in 2002, I came across a paper in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society with a bold title: “A Programme for Interstellar Exploration.” I already knew that its author, Robert Forward, was a major figure in the world of deep space studies, an aerospace engineer and inventor […]

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Dawn on Vesta Approach

May 12, 2011

The Dawn mission is going to command our attention this summer, with orbital capture around Vesta in mid-July and science data collection beginning a scant two weeks later as the spacecraft produces topographical maps from an altitude of approximately 2700 kilometers. Orbiting the main belt asteroid for one year, Dawn will close to within 200 […]

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Future Splashdown in Ligeia Mare?

May 11, 2011

Given the budgetary situation, it’s nice to know we can still get to the outer Solar System without the cost of a flagship-class mission like Cassini, which weighed in at 3.26 billion — that included $1.4 billion for pre-launch development, $704 million for mission operations, $54 million for tracking and $422 million for the launch […]

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Habitability Around Nearby Stars

May 10, 2011

My friend Adam Crowl, a polymath if there ever was one, is working hard on Project Icarus and keeping an eye on the exoplanet situation. When you’re working on a starship design, no matter how theoretical, a major issue is the choice of targets, and the study of Kepler planets we looked at yesterday caught […]

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Habitable Zone Planets and Kepler

May 9, 2011

A habitable zone can be defined in many ways, but for our immediate purposes, defining it with reference to liquid water on a planetary surface makes sense. Sure, we believe that life could exist beneath the surface on places like Europa, where surface water is out of the question, but the key issue is this: […]

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The Pros and Cons of METI

May 6, 2011

Tau Zero journalist Larry Klaes has been fascinated by SETI — and its offshoot METI (Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence) — for a long time now. Here he steps back to look at METI in context, offering up an examination of the advantages of sending signals to the stars and the offsetting risks. We’ve looked at […]

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Key Effects of General Relativity Confirmed

May 5, 2011

Gravity Probe B has confirmed two of the most interesting effects predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. The geodetic effect, which describes the warping of spacetime due to the mass of the Earth, has been confirmed to an accuracy of 0.28 percent. The frame-dragging effect, in which the Earth’s rotation drags or stirs local […]

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Terrestrial Planets: Find the Debris Disk

May 4, 2011

Over 900 stars have been found that show signs of a debris disk, a circumstellar disk of dust and debris orbiting the star. It takes less than 10 million years for the gaseous content of these disks to dissipate, leaving the dusty disk behind. You can think of the Kuiper Belt in our own system, […]

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Goldstone Primed for Asteroid Flyby

May 3, 2011

With asteroid 2005 YU55 making a close pass later this year, it’s worth remembering that we’ve had a look at this near-Earth object before. It was in April of 2010 that the asteroid, discovered through the efforts of the SpaceWatch Program at the University of Arizona, was deftly imaged by the Arecibo Radio Telescope. That […]

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