Monday, August 29, 2016

Dragonfly 44

Astronomers have discovered a galaxy they call Dragonfly 44 that is composed of 99.99 percent dark matter.

Now they are looking for more such galaxies.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Clarke's Three Firsts

Arthur C. Clarke wrote there are three great firsts in space exploration-- the first human on another world, the first human on another planet orbiting the Sun, and the first human on a world orbiting another star.  We now have a good handle on that sequence.

The first occurred in 1969.

If all goes well, the second will occur on Mars in two or three decades.

And the third will take place on a world now called Proxima b.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Reaching Proxima b

Some commentators have noted getting to Proxima b would take thousands of years with current technology, so finding it is of limited interest.

In fact, the Breakthrough Starshot project hopes to launch nanoprobes there in about 20 years, using lightsail technology to accelerate them to 20 percent of the speed of light.  If all goes well, we could have data back from a flyby of Proxima b yet this century.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Proxima b

Astronomers announced yesterday the discovery of Proxima b, an Earth-like world orbiting Proxima Centauri.

Further, it orbits in that star's habitable zone, which means it may possibly support life.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Right Place, Rght Time

A NASA probe investigating the Van Allen radiation belts around Earth happened to be in the right place at the right time last year when mass ejected from the Sun during a powerful solar storm slammed into the belts.

Such events can damage spacecraft, so studying this one will be helpful.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Musk on Mars

Elon Musk is set  to lay out his plans for putting humans on Mars at the meeting of the International Astronautical Congress next month.

If all goes as planned, Musk will beat NASA to Mars by several years.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Tabby's Star

Some scientists are still considering alien explanations for the unprecedented dimming of Tabby's Star.  No natural explanation has yet snugly fit the data.

Another search for radio signals coming from the star will be conducted in October.  The first such search found nothing.