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Monday September 17th 2012

‘Space’ Archives

Summer Comes to Green Town

Summer Comes to Green Town

Summer in Green Town, Illinois back in 1928 opened like this: “It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first [...]

Measuring Non-Transiting Worlds

Measuring Non-Transiting Worlds

Although I want to move on this morning to some interesting exoplanet news, I’m not through with fusion propulsion, not by a long shot. I want to respond to some of the questions that came in about the British ZETA experiment, and also discuss some of Rod Hyde’s starship ideas as developed at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in the 1970s. Also on [...]

Fusion and the Starship: Early Concepts

Fusion and the Starship: Early Concepts

Having looked at the Z-pinch work in Huntsville yesterday, we’ve been kicking around the question of fusion for propulsion and when it made its first appearance in science fiction. The question is still open in the comments section and I haven’t been able to pin down anything in the World War II era, though there is plenty of material to be [...]

Uses of a Forgotten Cluster

Uses of a Forgotten Cluster

Astronomical surprises can emerge close to home, close in terms of light years and close in terms of time. Take NGC 6774, an open cluster of stars also known as Ruprecht 147 in the direction of Sagittarius. In astronomical terms, it’s close enough — at 800 to 1000 light years — to be a target for binoculars in the skies of late [...]

Z-Pinch: Powering Up Fusion in Huntsville

Z-Pinch: Powering Up Fusion in Huntsville

The road to fusion is a long slog, a fact that began to become apparent as early as the 1950s. It was then that the ZETA — Zero-Energy Toroidal (or Thermonuclear) Assembly — had pride of place as the fusion machine of the future, or so scientists working on the device in the UK thought. A design based on a confinement technique called [...]

Celestial Spectacle: Planets in Tight Orbits

Celestial Spectacle: Planets in Tight Orbits

I’ve always had an interest in old travel books. A great part of the pleasure of these journals of exploration lies in their illustrations, sketches or photographs of landscapes well out of the reader’s experience, like Victoria Falls or Ayers Rock or the upper reaches of the Amazon. Maybe someday we’ll have a travel literature for [...]

Interstellar Flight in the News

Interstellar Flight in the News

Tau Zero founder Marc Millis is interviewed by Bruce Dorminey in Forbes this week, the logical first question being where interstellar flight ranks on our list of priorities. A case can be made, after all, that we have yet to get humans beyond the Moon, and that while we have managed robotic missions to the outer planets, our technologies need [...]

Voyager 1 Nearing Interstellar Space

Voyager 1 Nearing Interstellar Space

It should come as no surprise to anyone who follows Centauri Dreams that I am a great admirer of Ed Stone, the former director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (from 1991 to 2001) and more than any single scientist, the public face of many of our missions to the outer Solar System. Stone’s work on space projects began as far back as 1961 with [...]

Titan’s Lakes and the Drive to Explore

Titan’s Lakes and the Drive to Explore

What is it that makes us want the stars? Surely there are philosophical reasons that push us into the universe, and in his book Quest: The Essence of Humanity (2004), Charles Pasternak delves into ‘questing’ as a drive embedded in the species. But alongside a need to explore I can see two other drivers. One is the urge to know whether life [...]

Small Planets: No Need for High Metallicity?

Small Planets: No Need for High Metallicity?

In astronomy, the word ‘metals’ refers to anything heavier than hydrogen and helium. Stars fuse hydrogen into helium and from there work their way into the higher elements until hitting iron, at which point the end quickly comes, with ‘star stuff,’ as Carl Sagan liked to put it, being flung out into the universe. Through stellar [...]

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