October 2013

Kepler-78b: Rocky World in Unusual Orbit

October 31, 2013

When I was first learning about astronomy by reading every book I could find on the subject — I spent a lot of time at the library in my youth — I was fascinated to hear stories of a planet closer to the Sun than Mercury. The French scientist Urbain Le Verrier pondered the existence […]

Read the full article →

HD 21997: Challenge to Planet Formation Theories

October 30, 2013

HD 21997 is a star in the southern constellation Fornax (the Furnace) that is yielding some surprising data about how planetary systems form. About 235 light years from Earth, the star is 1.8 times the mass of the Sun and is thought to be about thirty million years old. Observations by an international team using […]

Read the full article →

Desert Planets Around Carbon-Rich Stars?

October 29, 2013

Habitable zones are always controversial. Bring up the classic definition of a zone where liquid water can exist on the surface and you run into queries about places like Europa, far outside the HZ in those terms but perhaps capable of supporting life beneath the ice. For that matter, exotic forms of life cannot be […]

Read the full article →

Starship Century Symposium, London

October 28, 2013

Oxford-based Stephen Ashworth, who attended the recent Starship Century event in London, obviously took copious notes, as reflected in the piece that follows. Ashworth is a Centauri Dreams regular, a writer and musician who, like so many of us on this site, ponders the big questions of our engagement with — and exploration of — […]

Read the full article →

Astrosociology: The Human Dimension of Outer Space

October 25, 2013

Kathleen Toerpe, PhD, is a social and cultural historian who researches the human dimension of outer space through an emerging field called “astrosociology.” She is the Deputy CEO for Public Outreach and Education with the Astrosociology Research Institute, volunteers as a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador, is active with the 100 Year Starship initiative to lay […]

Read the full article →

Titan’s Northern Lake Country

October 24, 2013

New views from Cassini are giving us a much better look at Titan’s north pole and the seas and lakes that make the region so distinctive. This is particularly interesting because most of the moon’s lakes are concentrated at its northern latitudes, a fact that demands an explanation. The new near-infrared images show an area […]

Read the full article →

Misaligned Planets and their Implications

October 23, 2013

The red giant Kepler-56, some 3000 light years from the Sun, is telling us useful things about planetary alignments. The star is somewhat out of synch with the majority of Kepler targets to begin with. Most of these are unevolved stars near the main sequence, which are those most likely to produce systems in which […]

Read the full article →

Laser Technologies for Starflight

October 22, 2013

How do we go about using photons to accelerate a spacecraft to a substantial percentage of the speed of light? Ten percent of c ought to do — it gets us to Alpha Centauri with a mission time of 43 years and would allow us to at least send flyby probes into that system, with […]

Read the full article →

Laser Travel by Photonic Thruster

October 21, 2013

A recent article in Popular Mechanics about Young K. Bae’s work on laser propulsion is generating some buzz, enough that I went back to look at the 2008 report Bae did for the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. Actually there are two reports, a Phase I and a later Phase II (with additional funding) on […]

Read the full article →

The Ethics of Unintended Consequences

October 18, 2013

Diplomat and author Michael Michaud returns to Centauri Dreams with a look at interstellar probes and how we might use them. Drawn from a presentation originally intended for the 100 Year Starship Symposium in Houston, the essay asks what effect our exploring another stellar system would have on its possible inhabitants. And beyond that, what […]

Read the full article →