October 2011

Building the Brown Dwarf Census

October 17, 2011

About a month ago we were looking at the work of Ray Jayawardhana and team on the brown dwarf 2MASS 2139, an interesting case because Jayawardhana (University of Toronto) thinks he has spotted a giant storm raging on the object, or perhaps holes in the cloud deck that allow a glimpse of deeper layers of […]

Read the full article →

Remembering Collier’s and Looking Ahead

October 14, 2011

We’ve been talking lately about space missions designed to maximize science vs. those that are at least partly geared toward public relations. But most missions will have both components, the need for public support being woven into the fabric of our ambitions. As we try, then, to ramp up the scientific return, what can we […]

Read the full article →

Huge Mountain Among Early Vesta Results

October 13, 2011

So much has been happening in recent weeks that I haven’t had the chance to keep up with all the stories in the queue, and that’s not a bad thing considering that a high level of activity usually means we’re learning new and interesting things. Consider the Dawn mission, which has been orbiting the asteroid […]

Read the full article →

Thoughts on a Different Apollo

October 12, 2011

Did the Apollo missions produce enough good science to justify their cost? It’s a question Freeman Dyson has speculated on in the past, calling the missions a success because they were “conceived and honestly presented to the public as an international sporting event and not as a contribution to science.” Symbolic of this is the […]

Read the full article →

The Snows of Enceladus

October 11, 2011

Once again it’s time to catch up with Enceladus, the little moon that has such a huge impact on the planetary system it moves through. We’re learning, for example, how much water vapor is erupting from the features in the moon’s south polar region known as the ‘tiger stripes.’ Cassini measurements (using the Ultraviolet Imaging […]

Read the full article →

Updating the 100 Year Starship Symposium

October 10, 2011

I’ve got an out of town speaking gig today and am pressed for time, so this may be a good occasion for something I needed to do anyway for the record, which is to highlight the papers given by Tau Zero Foundation and Project Icarus people at the recent 100 Year Starship Symposium. Most of […]

Read the full article →

A New Slant on ‘The Planet of Doubt’

October 7, 2011

Among all the planets, Uranus seems to get the least play in science fiction, though it does have one early advocate whose work I’ve always been curious about. Although he wrote under a pseudonym, the author calling himself ‘Mr. Vivenair’ published a book about a journey to Uranus back in the late 18th Century. A […]

Read the full article →

Earth’s Oceans: A Cometary Source After All?

October 6, 2011

Getting water into the inner Solar System is an interesting exercise. There has to be a mechanism for it, because the early Earth formed at temperatures that would have caused any available water to have evaporated. Scientists have long speculated that water must have been delivered either through comets or asteroids once the Earth had […]

Read the full article →

Resonance and Probability Around Kepler-18

October 5, 2011

Three planets recently discovered through Kepler data provide an interesting take on how we look at smaller planets. Not that the planets around the star designated Kepler-18 are all that small — two of them are Neptune-class and one is a super-Earth. But what is becoming clear is that given the state of our current […]

Read the full article →

Initial Thoughts on the Starship Symposium

October 3, 2011

I’m just back from the 100 Year Starship Symposium. The thoughts below were written yesterday evening (the 2nd), just after the event ended. It’s a lovely evening here in Orlando, one I’m enjoying while sitting out in front of the Hilton waiting for my taxi. I got a chuckle out of the audience at my […]

Read the full article →