November 2011

Technological Leaps in Perspective

November 30, 2011

Wednesday is a travel day for me, and one with little chance to do any posting here. I’ll leave you, then, with a quotation, and get back to normal posting tomorrow. Interstellar travel is incredibly difficult, perhaps as difficult to us today as a flight to Mars would have appeared to Christopher Columbus or other […]

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Cygnus X-1: A Black Hole Confirmed

November 29, 2011

Cygnus X-1 is one of the strongest X-ray sources we can detect from Earth and the first widely thought to be a black hole. In fact, when Stephen Hawking bet against X-1 being a black hole back in 1975, he was more or less setting up a hedge, for black holes have been a crucial […]

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Star Maker: The Philosophy of Olaf Stapledon

November 28, 2011

Kelvin Long and Richard Osborne have seen to it that the British Interplanetary Society’s conference on the highly influential science fiction writer and philosopher Olaf Stapledon has gone off without a hitch. Here is their report from the event, a conference evidently as rife with speculation and far-future musings as anything the author himself ever […]

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Reflections on a Mythic Voyager

November 25, 2011

Voyager 2 received commands in early November to switch to the backup set of thrusters that control the roll of the spacecraft. I keep close tabs on the Voyagers because, still operational, they constitute our first interstellar mission, headed beyond the heliosphere and still returning data. Launched in 1977, they’re an obvious example of long-term […]

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Ranking Exoplanet Habitability

November 23, 2011

Our notions of habitability are built around environments like our own, which is why the search for planets with temperatures that support liquid water at the surface is such a lively enterprise. But as we saw yesterday, it is not beyond possibility that many places in our Solar System could have sub-surface oceans, even remote […]

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The Case for Pluto’s Ocean

November 22, 2011

Sub-surface oceans in the Solar System may be far more common than we’ve realized. We’ve grown used to contemplating water under the ice of Europa, but similar oceans may well exist on Ganymede and Callisto, and there are signs of a possible ocean beneath Titan, not to mention the unusual activity we continue to observe […]

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Notes & Queries 11/21/11

November 21, 2011

Millis on The Space Show Marc Millis is now in Brussels for another TEDx talk — I link here to the TEDx description of him as ‘a rock star in the world of space geeks’ that always gives him a chuckle. More about the talk as soon as I have the link for online viewing. […]

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Science Fiction and the Interstellar Idea

November 18, 2011

Science fiction has been much on my mind of late, particularly following the 100 Year Starship Symposium, where so many of the scientists I talked to mentioned novels and movies that had been influential in getting them into science. My friend Keith Cooper, editor of Astronomy Now and a fine science writer whose work I […]

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A Possible Subsurface Lake on Europa

November 17, 2011

An area of disrupted terrain called Thera Macula on Jupiter’s moon Europa may be evidence for a body of liquid water with the volume of North America’s Great Lakes encased within the ice. The notion comes from analysis of floating ice shelves that seem to be collapsing. That an ocean exists beneath the ice on […]

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Updating the Gravitational Wave Hunt

November 16, 2011

The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna mission (LISA), slated for launch later this decade, will go about testing one of Einstein’s key predictions, that gravitational waves should emanate from exotic objects like black holes. Detectors like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) have operated on Earth’s surface but are subject to seismic noise that disturbs […]

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