Thursday April 8th 2010

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Black Holes, Starships and the Cosmos

by Adam Crowl Louis Crane’s work at Kansas State University caught my eye some time back, but I was uncomfortable trying to explain it when I knew polymath Adam Crowl had so much better insight into Crane’s thinking than I did. One thing led to another, and now we can get an overview of Crane’s thoughts on black holes and [...]

A Problem with ‘Standard Candles’?

Type Ia supernovae have become important ’standard candles’ in judging cosmic distances, telling us how far away the host galaxy of a given supernova is. The idea here is that this kind of supernova produces a consistent luminosity because the white dwarfs that explode in the process are of uniform mass. The Type Ia supernova happens [...]

Passing Stars and Interstellar Speculations

Watching how exoplanet news hits the press is always interesting, but I was surprised at how the discovery of CoRoT-9b (discussed here yesterday) was received. The scientific reward could be significant, which is why one scientist referred to the find as a ‘Rosetta stone,’ but the fact that we had a gas giant that was both analyzable [...]

Transiting Gas Giant a ‘Rosetta Stone’

Claire Moutou, one of an international team of astronomers behind the discovery of the planet CoRoT-9b, says the distant world will become a ‘Rosetta stone in exoplanet research.’ And perhaps it will, for this is a transiting gas giant, but not a ‘hot Jupiter.’ In an orbit not dissimilar to that of Mercury, CoRoT-9b [...]

Finding the Real Planet X

One of the things we need to learn about the Alpha Centauri stars is whether Proxima Centauri is gravitationally bound to Centauri A and B. Much hinges on the issue, for if Proxima is merely passing in the night, then whatever disruptive effect it may have upon an outer halo of comets around the Centauri stars would be a one-shot affair. On the [...]

OSIRIS-REx: Mission to an Asteroid

Why mount a mission to an asteroid? For one thing, some of them cross the Earth’s orbit, and that makes gathering knowledge about their composition essential to any future trajectory-altering operation. For another, the science return could be immense. These are unprepossessing objects, no more than chunks of rock and dust, but they can tell [...]

General Relativity Holds Up Under Galactic Test

Yesterday’s trip to the dark side involved the so-called ‘dark flow,’ the apparent motion of galactic clusters along a path in the direction of the constellations Centaurus and Hydra. Today we look at two other dark conjectures — dark matter and dark energy. Are both a part of the universe we observe, or can we do away with [...]

‘Dark Flow’ Pushes Deeper into the Cosmos

When you’re studying galaxy clusters, it doesn’t pay to be in a hurry. Harald Ebeling (University of Hawaii) is an expert on the matter, working with a catalog of over a thousand such clusters in a new study of the so-called ‘dark flow,’ the apparent motion of galaxy clusters along a path centered on the southern [...]

Habitable Planets: Working the Odds

Want to play around with some numbers? The process is irresistible, and we do it all the time when plugging values into the Drake equation, trying to find ways to estimate how many other civilizations might be out there. But a question that is a bit less complicated is how many terrestrial planets exist in the habitable zones of their stars? [...]

Piecing Together Titan’s Landscape

Titan’s Sikun Labyrinthus is a an area of connected valleys and ridges that bears a certain similarity to features on Earth. The area appears analogous to what we call ‘karst topography,’ created on our planet when layers of bedrock are dissolved by water, to leave rock outcroppings and sinkholes. The Darai Hills of Papua New [...]

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