December 2016

Uncertain Propulsion Breakthroughs?

December 30, 2016

Now that the EmDrive has made its way into the peer-reviewed literature, it falls in range of Tau Zero’s network of scientist reviewers. Marc Millis, former head of NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics project and founding architect of the Tau Zero Foundation, has spent the last two months reviewing the relevant papers. Although he is the […]

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New Horizons: Going Deep in the Kuiper Belt

December 29, 2016

We’ve retrieved all the data from New Horizons’ flyby of Pluto/Charon in 2015, the last of it being acquired on October 25 of this year. But data analysis is a long and fascinating process, with papers emerging in the journals and new discoveries peppering their pages. The New Horizons science team submitted almost 50 scientific […]

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Vera Rubin (1928-2016)

December 28, 2016

When Vera Rubin went to Cornell University to earn a master’s degree, she quickly found herself immersed in galaxy dynamics, lured to the topic by Martha Stahr Carpenter. The interest, though, was a natural one; it drew on Rubin’s childhood fascination with the motion of stars across the sky. You could say that motion captivated […]

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Orbital Determination for Proxima Centauri

December 27, 2016

Let’s talk this morning about the relationship of Proxima Centauri to nearby Centauri A and B, because it’s an important issue in our investigations of Proxima b, not to mention the evolution of the entire system. Have a look at the image below, which shows Proxima Centauri’s orbit as determined by Pierre Kervella (CNRS/Universidad de […]

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Seasonal Break

December 22, 2016

The other day on the hugely enjoyable Galactic Journey site, I ran into an interesting historical tidbit. Here, from the 1753 Cyclopædia: or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences by Ephraim Chambers is a definition of the word ‘interstellar.’ And with a modernized presentation: “Interstellar, is a word used by some authors to express […]

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Citizen SETI

December 21, 2016

I love watching people who have a passion for science constructing projects in ways that benefit the community. I once dabbled in radio astronomy through the Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers, and I could also point to the SETI League, with 1500 members on all seven continents engaged in one way or another with local […]

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PanSTARRS: Digital Sky Survey Data Release

December 20, 2016

A 1.8 meter telescope at the summit of Haleakalā on Maui is the first instrument in use at the Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System) observatory. Pan-STARRS recently completed a digital survey of the sky in visible and infrared wavelengths that began in May of 2010, a project that surveyed the entire sky […]

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Learning More about Outer System Planets

December 19, 2016

What kind of planets are most common in the outer reaches of a planetary system? It’s a tricky question because most of the data we’ve gathered on exoplanets has to do with the inner regions. Both transit and radial velocity studies work best with large planets near their stars. But a new gravitational microlensing study […]

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A New Look at Ice on Ceres

December 16, 2016

Ceres, that interesting dwarf planet in the asteroid belt, is confirmed to be just as icy as we had assumed. In fact, a new study of the world, led by Thomas Prettyman (Planetary Science Institute), was the subject of a press conference yesterday at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco. Prettyman and […]

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Surviving the Journey: Spacecraft on a Chip

December 15, 2016

If Breakthrough Starshot can achieve its goal of delivering small silicon chip payloads to Proxima Centauri or other nearby stars, it will be because we’ve solved any number of daunting problems in the next 30 years. That’s the length of time the project’s leaders currently sketch out to get the mission designed, built and launched, […]

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