December 2013

Lasers in our Future

December 31, 2013

Best wishes for the New Year! I got a resigned chuckle — not a very mirthful one, to be sure — out of a recent email from Adam Crowl, who wrote: “Look at that date! Who imagined we’d still be stuck in LEO in 2014???” Indeed. It’s hard to imagine there really was a time […]

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Laser Communications for Deep Space

December 30, 2013

A recent email from Centauri Dreams regular Carl Keller reminded me about the laser communications tests conducted aboard a NASA satellite. The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer satellite (LADEE) carried a laser package that demonstrated excellent download and upload rates and successful transmission of two simultaneous channels carrying high-definition video streams to and from […]

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Pondering Recent Exomoon News

December 27, 2013

‘Exomoons’ — moons around planets around other stars — are another of those new frontiers of modern astronomy. It’s astonishing to reflect that 51 Pegasi b, the first exoplanet orbiting a main-sequence star, was discovered as recently as 1995, a time when we could only suspect that planets might be common and were only then […]

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Mass Effect: What Exoplanet Atmospheres Can Tell Us

December 24, 2013

Let me offer best wishes for the holidays to all Centauri Dreams readers, with thanks for the numerous comments and suggestions over the course of the past year. The schedule this week is abbreviated but I’ll have a new post up on Friday. I’m about to set out to gather the materials I need for […]

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From Brown Dwarfs to NEOWISE

December 23, 2013

I will admit to an obsession with small, dim stars, one that goes far enough to take in those not-quite stars called brown dwarfs, objects too small to ignite hydrogen fusion. The WISE mission showed us that, at least in our Sun’s neighborhood, brown dwarfs aren’t as common as we once thought, with perhaps one […]

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Cometary Clues to the Fomalhaut System?

December 20, 2013

It was only in October of this year that we discovered that a red dwarf star called LP 876-10 was in fact part of the Fomalhaut system. Now known as Fomalhaut C, the diminutive object is making news of its own with the announcement that, like its much larger and brighter counterpart, Fomalhaut A, it […]

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Possible Planet in Nearby Brown Dwarf System

December 19, 2013

Has astrometry finally bagged an exoplanet? A new study from Henri Boffin (European Southern Observatory) and colleagues has found compelling evidence that the nearest pair of brown dwarfs to the Sun — WISE J104915.57-531906, otherwise known as Luhman 16AB — is home to a hitherto undetected companion. It’s interesting news not only for the astrometry […]

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New Views of Titan’s Lake Country

December 17, 2013

Titan has about 9000 cubic kilometers of liquid hydrocarbon, some forty times more than in all the proven oil reservoirs on Earth. That’s just one of the findings of scientists working over the data from recent Cassini flybys of the Saturnian moon. Each flyby snares our attention because this is the only other place in […]

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Water Vapor Detected Above Europa

December 16, 2013

Last week’s look at Europa examined the possibility of primordial impacts there that might have brought organic materials to the moon, focusing especially on clay-like minerals that a JPL team found in data from the Galileo mission. I had barely finished that article before the news from Hubble arrived with observations of water vapor above […]

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Vessel: A Science Fiction Prototype

December 13, 2013

Futurist and librarian Heath Rezabek returns with further thoughts on preserving mankind’s heritage through Vessels that would contain everything we are as a species. But in an unusual offering, he goes on to provide a fictional look at how such Vessels affect the future. Just how do we preserve and present Earth’s cultural and biological […]

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