May 2017

Remembering Ben Finney (1933-2017)

May 31, 2017

Ben Finney, the editor (along with Eric Jones) of Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience, has died at age 83. A professor emeritus at the University of Hawaii, Finney died quietly at a nursing home in Kaimuki, according to this obituary in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. There is much to be said about this visionary man, […]

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Comments on Near-Term Interstellar Probes

May 30, 2017

If you have questions about beamed energy concepts, James Benford is your man. A plasma physicist who is CEO of Microwave Sciences, Benford has designed high-power microwave systems for the likes of NASA, JPL and Lockheed. Now Chairman of the Sail Subcommittee for Breakthrough Starshot, he is deep into the investigation of sail materials and […]

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Near-Term Interstellar Probes: Some Gentle Suggestions

May 26, 2017

When Greg Matloff’s “Solar Sail Starships: Clipper Ships of the Galaxy” appeared in JBIS in 1981, the science fictional treatments of interstellar sails I had been reading suddenly took on scientific plausibility. Later, I would read Robert Forward’s work, and realize that an interstellar community was growing in space agencies, universities and the pages of […]

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Psyche Mission Moved Up

May 25, 2017

Have a look at the design of the Psyche spacecraft now being built by Space Systems Loral in Palo Alto. What’s intriguing here is the five-panel x-shaped design of the solar array, reconfigured from a four-panel array on either side of the spacecraft. The juiced up array offers this asteroid-bound spacecraft higher power capabilities for […]

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Enter the ‘Synestia’

May 24, 2017

What happens when giant objects collide? We know the result will be catastrophic, as when we consider the possibility that the Moon was formed by a collision between the Earth and a Mars-sized object in the early days of the Solar System. But Sarah Stewart (UC-Davis) and Simon Lock (a graduate student at Harvard University) […]

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TRAPPIST-1h: Filling in the Picture

May 23, 2017

One of the worst things we can do is to get so wedded to a concept that we fail to see conflicting information. That’s true whether the people involved are scientists, or stock brokers, or writers. It’s all too easy to distort the surrounding facts because we want to get a particular result, a process […]

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Best Images Yet of Fomalhaut Debris Disk

May 22, 2017

The ongoing dimming of Boyajian’s Star will result in a flood of new data from a wide variety of instruments worldwide, excellent news for those trying to piece together what is happening here. I hope you saw Tabetha Boyajian’s interview with David Kipping over the weekend, but if not, you can see it archived here. […]

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New Dip for Boyajian’s Star

May 19, 2017

Twitter action has been fast and furious with this morning’s news of the first clear dip in light from Boyajian’s Star (KIC 8462852) since the Kepler data. #TabbysStar IS DIPPING! OBSERVE!! @NASAKepler @LCO_Global @keckobservatory @AAVSO @nexssinfo @NASA @NASAHubble @Astro_Wright @BerkeleySETI — Tabetha Boyajian (@tsboyajian) May 19, 2017 I’m on the road most of today and […]

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Detecting Photosynthesis on Exoplanets

May 18, 2017

Although many of the nearby stars we will study for signs of life are older than the Sun, we do not know how long it takes life to emerge or, for that matter, how likely it is to emerge at all. As we saw yesterday, that means plugging values into Drake-like equations to estimate the […]

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A ‘Census’ for Civilizations

May 17, 2017

We’ve been talking about the Colossus project, and the possibility that this huge (though remarkably lightweight) instrument could detect the waste heat of extraterrestrial civilizations. But what are the chances of this, if we work out the numbers based on the calculations the Colossus team is working with? After all, Frank Drake put together his […]

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