Thursday April 8th 2010

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Relativistic Rockets, Antimatter and More

Interstellar theorist Richard Obousy (Baylor University) has some thoughts about William and Arthur Edelstein’s ideas on flight near the speed of light. As discussed in these pages on Friday, the Edelsteins, in a presentation delivered at the American Physical Society, had argued that a relativistic rocket would encounter interstellar [...]

FOCAL: Last Call for IAC Papers

Every few weekends as we move toward the March 5 deadline for submission of abstracts to the next International Astronautical Congress, I’ll re-run this call for papers that I originally published in December. The Tau Zero Foundation hopes to energize discussion of FOCAL in the astronautical community and create a growing set of papers [...]

Pushing Up Against Lightspeed

Time dilation has long been understood, even if its effects are still mind-numbing. It was in 1963 that Carl Sagan laid out the idea of exploiting relativistic effects for reaching other civilizations. In a paper called “Direct Contact Among Galactic Civilizations by Relativistic Interstellar Flight,” Sagan speculated on how humans [...]

Outstanding Early Imagery from WISE

We’re keeping a close eye on the WISE mission (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) and the possibility of identifying brown dwarfs closer to our Sun than the Centauri stars. But WISE’s targets are numerous, and the early imagery coming back from the mission is promising indeed. To check out the capabilities of this space-based [...]

Star Formation in the Early Universe

We know that new stars form out of cold gas and dust that are present in galaxies, but what accounts for the fact that star formation is slower than in earlier eras? Three to five billion years after the Big Bang, galaxies turned out stars at a much faster clip than they do today. The Milky Way seems to produce stars at a rate equaling about ten [...]

‘Smart Dust’ and Solar Sails

My interest in solar sail concepts goes back to the days of Cordwainer Smith’s “The Lady Who Sailed the Soul,” a science fiction tale (Galaxy, April 1960) whose evocative conjuring of a fantastic future has always stayed with me despite far more realistic sail concepts from the pen of Arthur C. Clarke and Poul Anderson, to name [...]

Space: ‘Let’s Just Do It’

When Peter Diamandis talks about the emergence of a ‘let’s just do it’ mentality about spaceflight, anyone interested in getting our species off-planet will listen up. Diamandis, after all, as chief executive of the X Prize Foundation, has been a major force in making commercial space ventures newsworthy. Who can forget the first [...]

Directed Panspermia: Seeding the Galaxy

Panspermia, the idea that life might travel through space to seed other planets and even other star systems, is a fascinating topic for conjecture, and our understanding of the survival of various forms of life in extreme environments only adds to its appeal. But just as SETI has an active counterpart that seeks to send rather than simply receive [...]

Dark Energy: Calibrating Standard Candles

To measure the brightness of a star, astronomers compare it to standard reference stars. You would think measurements of the latter would be highly refined by now, but as this New Scientist story points out, the bright star Vega’s most accurate measurements date back to the 1970s. That puts the focus on a new space telescope, or maybe New [...]

Mapping the Interstellar Medium

We’ve long known that the spaces between the stars are not empty, but are pervaded by a highly dilute mix of gas and dust. Now we’re getting maps that show the presence of large cavities in this interstellar medium, created by supernova events as well as outflowing solar winds from clusters of hot, young stars. The Sun resides in the [...]

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