1. Weird warp – The Kepler telescope, which has been looking for planets outside our solar system, has found a new rocky planet a bit like a scorched molten Earth. It orbits around a sun like star called Kepler-10 in only 45 days.
If a Brown Dwarf with a surface much darker than the Moon was at Elenin’s distance (as of June 1), it would have a magnitude of -6.5.
This is much brighter than Venus, bright enough to cast shadows at night and bright enough to be easily seen in daylight. This is an under estimate, as a Brown Dwarf would be more likely to be more reflective, more like Jupiter. An object 4 times Jupiter’s size just outside Mars’s orbit would also be visible as a small disk (you can do the calculations for this one as an exercise for yourselves, see the Stellarium simulation above).
6. Astroswanny goes Exo hunting. Asking the question: “can you get involved in the Kepler Hunt?”, he finds that you can indeed and records a followup transit on KOI 189b, a lonely looking member of the public list of 1235 transit candidates.
10. Vintage Space – How do you learn to fly an vehicle that isn’t built yet? Build it yourself! X-15 pilots Milt Thompson and Neil Armstrong built the Paraglider Research Vehicle or Paresev to test the feasibility of the Rogallo wing as a landing method. The program was a success even if the Rogallo wing never got off the ground.
Adrian Mann has done it again, as witness his illustration of a gas mining operation on Uranus, reproduced below. The idea, as explored by Adam Crowl on Discovery News, is to acquire vast amounts of helium-3 to supply not only Earth’s energy needs but the fusion engines of the Project Icarus star probe. I love Adrian’s work and particularly his Project Daedalus images, on display along with much of his other work in his online gallery. What he manages to do is to take an engineering concept and translate it into images that are both accurate yet stunning. It’s easy to forget, until he reminds us, that hard-nosed equations and their resulting designs can lead to extraordinary vistas, a result that reawakens the sense of wonder.
Clifford Surko and his group at the University of California at San Diego are developing a novel solution to the antimatter storage problem. The solution is to store the particles in a multi-cell Penning-Malmberg trap. The group at UCSD are currently working on a 21-cell trap, which would be capable of storing 5 x 10^11 positrons. The trap’s design is modular, so the amount of positrons stored could be increased by adding more modules to the trap. This is a significant jump from the current capabilities of Penning traps, which can store ~10^8 positrons. Adding a larger amount of cells to the trap would increase the storage capability to 1 x 10^12 positrons, for a 95-cell trap.
The best actual prospect for antimatter propulsion is actually neutral antihydrogen/matter annihilation. This is for a few reasons. But a major one, is that more neutral antihydrogen can be stored using less voltage for its trap. The Brillouin density, mentioned above, limits the amount of charged antiparticles that can be stored in a magnetic trap. Neutral antiparticles are not subject to this limit, so more neutral antiparticles can be stored with less power requirements. This is especially true for neutral antiparticles with low energies. For example, the Brillouin density limit for positrons in a 1 Tesla magnetic trap is 5 x 10^12 cm-3 , while the limit for antiprotons in a field of the same strength is 2.5 x 10^9 cm-3. In contrast, the reported density for hydrogen in a Bose-Einstein Condensate state (a very low-energy state) is ~10^15 cm-3
16. Keith Henson has an update of his plan for space based solar power up at the Oildrum. Power satellites convert sunlight (via photovoltaic or thermal cycle) to electrical power and then turn the power into microwaves beamed to the ground and converted back to electrical power.
Critical to achieving costs of $100/kg or less to get material to geosynchronous orbit is to use spaceplanes that can fly frequently and a laser boosting system. This launch complexity would not be needed if there were simpler ways to achieve the cost target of $100/kg or less. However, Keith is putting together systems that have active development and some momentum towards actually being developed within the next 10-20 years.
17. In an interview with Sander Olson, X-prize director Erika Wagner discusses the history of the X-prize, the enormous potential Return On Investment (ROI) that a prize can generate, and the technologies that she would like to see developed in the near future.
18. StarTram is a proposal for a maglev space launch system. The initial Generation 1 facility would be cargo only, launching from a mountain peak at 3 km to 7 km altitude with an evacuated tube staying at local surface level, raising about 150,000 tons to orbit annually. More advanced technology would be required for the Generation 2 system for passengers, with a longer track instead gradually curving up at its end to the thinner air at 22 km altitude, supported by magnetic levitation, reducing g-forces when each capsule transitions from the vacuum tube to the atmosphere. A SPESIF 2010 presentation stated that Gen-1 could be completed by the year 2020+ if funding began presently, Gen-2 by 2030+.