Tuesday July 5th 2011

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Brown Dwarfs and Planets: A Blurry Boundary

Brown Dwarfs and Planets: A Blurry Boundary

With April approaching, my thoughts turn more and more to the release of the WISE data, which should tell us a great deal about brown dwarfs and other relatively cool objects in our stellar neighborhood. The Wide-Field Infrared Explorer mission hasn’t gained the media attention of a Kepler or a CoRoT because it’s not specifically a [...]

Extraterrestrial Life: The Need for an Answer

Extraterrestrial Life: The Need for an Answer

An article in Time Magazine’s latest issue caught my eye as I thumbed through it while waiting in line at the grocery store. The magazine is running a feature called ‘10 Ideas That Will Change the World,’ and they tend toward being optimistic takes on huge problems. Thus the deficit gets an essay about how we’re going to fix it, while [...]

Equatorial Rains on Titan

Equatorial Rains on Titan

Rains have come to the equatorial regions of Titan, a vivid marker of the changing seasons on the distant Saturnian moon. A large storm system appeared in the equatorial regions in late September of last year as spring came to the low latitudes, and extensive clouds followed in October. When they dissipated, the Cassini orbiter was able to capture [...]

Deadline Reminders: NASA Solicitations

Deadline Reminders: NASA Solicitations

Tau Zero practitioners should be aware that deadlines on the following solicitations are approaching quickly: (1) NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) – Early Stage Innovation DEADLINE for Notices of Intent: 29-March-2011 (Just 7 workdays away) DEADLINE for Proposals: 02-May-2011 (2) NASA Broad Agency Announcement (BAA): Technology [...]

The Flight of Icarus: Abridged

The Flight of Icarus: Abridged

by Andreas Tziolas After a 15 minute main thruster burn early this morning (UTC), the MESSENGER spacecraft is now in orbit around Mercury. Congratulations to the entire MESSENGER team. As we look forward to much more from Mercury, I want to turn today’s session over to Andreas Tziolas, for some thoughts on the mind-bending process of designing [...]

White Dwarfs and Habitable Planets

White Dwarfs and Habitable Planets

Before I get into today’s story, which is an interesting study on planets around white dwarfs that Andrew Tribick passed along, I want to say a few words about Japan. Centauri Dreams has many, many readers in that country, and the terrible images and stories coming out of there have haunted me these past few days. The suffering of those [...]

MESSENGER’s Day in the Sun

MESSENGER’s Day in the Sun

We rarely talk about the inner planets here, and even Mars gets short shrift. That’s because I decided at the outset that because there were so many excellent sites covering planetary exploration — and especially Mars — my only focus within our Solar System would be on the outer planets and, of course, what lies beyond them. But the [...]

A Dark Energy Option Challenged

A Dark Energy Option Challenged

Having a constant named after you ensures a hallowed place in astronomical history, and we can assume that Edwin Hubble would have been delighted with our continuing studies of the constant that bears his name. It was Hubble who showed that the velocity of distant galaxies as measured by their Doppler shift is proportional to their distance from [...]

Fukushima: Reactors and the Public

Fukushima: Reactors and the Public

All weekend long, as the dreadful news and heart-wrenching images from Japan kept coming in, I wondered how press coverage of the nuclear reactor situation would be handled. The temptation seemed irresistible to play the story for drama and maximum fear, citing catastrophic meltdowns, invoking Chernobyl and even Hiroshima, along with dire [...]

Antimatter: The Conundrum of Storage

Antimatter: The Conundrum of Storage

Are we ever going to use antimatter to drive a starship? The question is tantalizing because while chemical reactions liberate about one part in a billion of the energy trapped inside matter — and even nuclear reactions spring only about one percent of that energy free — antimatter promises to release what Frank Close calls ‘the full [...]

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