July 2011

A Trojan Asteroid for Earth

July 29, 2011

Although the asteroid temporarily called 2010 TK7 was discovered late in 2010, we now learn in the latest issue of Nature that this object is our planet’s first known Trojan asteroid. The term refers to objects that orbit around one of the two Lagrangian points L4 and L5 — these are found 60° ahead of […]

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A Shield from Stellar Eruptions?

July 28, 2011

We don’t know whether life can exist on a planet circling a red dwarf, but as reported in these pages frequently in the last few years, there have been studies showing that liquid water could persist on the surface of such planets despite the fact that they would most likely be tidally locked, with one […]

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Water in the Distant Universe

July 27, 2011

Although I wasn’t able to do any traveling during my recent week off, I did manage to get in some backed up reading, including Iain Banks’ Use of Weapons (2008), the third in his series of novels about the interstellar civilization known as ‘The Culture.’ I’ve developed quite an interest in Banks, whose novels paint […]

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A Brief Summer Break

July 18, 2011

It hasn’t escaped my attention that in the past seven years, I’ve taken no more than a couple of days off at a time from writing Centauri Dreams posts. Now that the doldrums of summer are here in the northern hemisphere, it seems a good time to take a somewhat longer break. Not that I’ll […]

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Two Relatively Near Brown Dwarfs

July 15, 2011

Two brown dwarfs relatively near to the Sun may be just the first such objects we’ll soon identify with data from the WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) satellite. Ralf-Dieter Scholz (Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik, Potsdam) and colleagues have gone to work on a search for brown dwarfs with high proper motion, looking for brown dwarfs in […]

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A Binary System on the Edge of Merger

July 14, 2011

A pair of white dwarf stars too close together to distinguish visually may help us in the hunt for gravitational waves, while potentially explaining a whole class of rare, relatively faint supernovae. The system in question — called SDSS J065133.33+284423.3, or J0651 for short — was found during a spectroscopic survey looking for extremely low […]

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A Neptunian Year Considered

July 13, 2011

When the German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle discovered Neptune on September 23, 1846, he found a world so distant from the Sun that its orbit takes 165 years to complete. With Neptune reaching its first complete revolution since discovery, an event that occurred yesterday, we can enjoy some celebratory Hubble imagery of the planet. I […]

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Supernovae: Factories of Cosmic Dust

July 12, 2011

The supernova called SN 1987A is a prime object for scrutiny because it gives us the chance to see the various phases of stellar death over time. And as you might guess from the fact that it was visible to the naked eye when first detected back in 1987, it’s located relatively nearby, in the […]

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Report from the UK Space Conference

July 11, 2011

By Rob Swinney Rob Swinney is a freelance writer, a member of the British Interplanetary Society and an active participant in the Tau Zero Foundation/BIS study group Project Icarus, a team of volunteers working on a practical design for an interstellar probe. Rob completed his Bachelors degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of […]

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Saturn: A Turbulent Early Spring

July 7, 2011

I had been intending to cover recent news about Saturn in an upcoming post anyway, but the images below sealed the deal. They’re further wonders from Cassini, pictures of a massive storm in Saturn’s northern hemisphere that encircles the planet. First detected on December 5, 2010, the storm has been on the rampage ever since […]

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