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Imagining and Planning Interstellar Exploration

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Voyager: A Persistent Clue to the Density of the Interstellar Medium

What are the long-lasting waves detected by Voyager 1? Our first working interstellar probe — admittedly never designed for that task — is operating beyond the heliosphere, which it exited back in 2012. A paper just published in Nature Astronomy explores what’s going in interstellar space just beyond, but still affected by, the heliosphere’s passage...

Interstellar Research Group: 7th Interstellar Symposium Call for Papers

Regular Acceptance: Abstracts Due June 30, 2021 The Interstellar Research Group (IRG) hereby invites participation in its 7th Interstellar Symposium, hosted by the University of Arizona to be held from Friday, September 24 through Monday, September 27, 2021, in Tucson, Arizona. The Interstellar Symposium has the following elements: The Interstellar...

A Bright Young World in the Ultraviolet

In the ranks of exoplanets we can actually see, we can include the gas giant PDS 70b, a young world orbiting the K-dwarf PDS 70. Bear in mind that of the more than 4,000 exoplanets thus far catalogued, only about 15 have been directly imaged, an indication of how tricky this work is and how far we have to go as we contemplate imaging Earth-size planets...

Exoplanet Geology: A Clue to Habitability?

Because we’ve just looked at how a carbon cycle like Earth’s may play out to allow habitability on other worlds, today’s paper seems a natural segue. It involves geology and planet formation, though here we’re less concerned with plate tectonics and feedback mechanisms than the composition of a planet’s mantle. At the University of British Columbia...

An Exoplanet Model for the Carbon Cycle

Earth’s long-term carbon cycle is significant for life because it keeps carbon in transition, rather than allowing it to accumulate in its entirety in the atmosphere, or become completely absorbed in carbonate rocks. The feedback mechanism works over geological timescales to allow stable temperatures as CO2 cycles between Earth’s mantle and the surface....

TOLIMAN: Looking for Earth Mass Planets at Alpha Centauri

Why the renewed focus on astrometry when it comes to Alpha Centauri (a theme we saw as well in the previous post on ALMA observations from the surface)? One problem we face with other detection methods is simply statistical: We can study planets, as via the Kepler mission, by their transits, but if we want to know about specific stars that are near...

Closing in on Centauri A and B with Astrometry

When it comes to finding planets around Centauri A and B, the method that most intrigues me is astrometry. At the recent Breakthrough Discuss sessions, Rachel Akeson (Caltech/IPAC) made the case for using the technique with data from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA). My interest is piqued by the fact that so few of the more than 4300 known...

Imaging an Alpha Centauri Planet

At some point, and probably soon, we’re going to be able to identify planets around Alpha Centauri A and B, assuming they are there and of a size sufficient for our methods. We may even be able to image one. Already we have an extremely tentative candidate around Alpha Centauri A — I hesitate even to call it a candidate, because this work is so preliminary...

Proxima Flare Captured at Multiple Wavelengths

I’ve been wanting to explore some of the observing campaigns for the Alpha Centauri system — their approach, design and early results — and we’ll start that early next week. But let’s home in first on an event within that system, a flare from Proxima Centauri that is fully 100 times more powerful than any flare ever detected from our own star. That...

A Drake Equation for Alien Artifacts

Jim Benford’s study of ‘lurkers’ — possibly ancient probes that may have been placed here by extraterrestrial civilizations to monitor our planet’s development — breaks into two parts. The first, published Friday, considered stars passing near our Sun in the lifetime of the Solar System. Today Dr. Benford looks at the Drake Equation and sets about modifying...

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