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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: October 2002
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SETI: Time for a change of direction? Oct 27, 2002
Universe heading for Big Crunch new study suggests Oct 21, 2002
Galaxy's central black hole confirmed Oct 16, 2002
First planet found in a close binary star system Oct 10, 2002


the nearby spiral galaxy M83
SETI: Time for a change of direction?
(Oct. 27, 2002)


For more than 40 years, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has largely involved listening for microwave and, to a lesser extent, laser signals across interstellar distances. This has become the standard, or conventional, paradigm. However, there are other approaches which, their supporters argue, are equally valid and at least as likely to prove successful. Moreover, the failure of conventional SETI, despite repeated and intensive efforts, to obtain positive results, suggests that the time has come to reevaluate where the limited resources available should be spent. Scot Stride, a JPL engineer who has worked on flight hardware for the Mars Pathfinder, Galileo, and other NASA missions, believes a rigorous survey of the SETI community is needed to establish what new directions, if any, researchers believe their subject should take in the future. Stride proposes a survey, conducted privately to allow free expression, based on conjoint analysis – a statistical technique for estimating what value people place on the attributes or features of something (often used, for example, in carrying out surveys of what options buyers consider when making a purchase).

A cluster of galaxies
Universe heading for Big Crunch new study suggests
(Oct. 21, 2002)


According to a new study carried out by Andrei Linde and his wife, Renata Kallosh, of Stanford University, the universe will begin collapsing within the next 10 to 20 billion years. Their work is based on the idea that the mysterious force that appears, at present, to be accelerating the cosmic expansion – working like antigravity – will eventually run out of steam. According to Linde and Kallosh, the properties of the dark energy that is currently stretching spacetime at an every increasing rate may be changing in a way that will eventually neutralise its influence. According to the Linde-Kallosh model, the cosmos, at some 14 billion years of age, is now, in human terms, a 40-something.

See André Linde's website here and Renata Kallosh's website here. More details to follow. Watch this space(-time)!

Radio wave image of Milky Way's core
Galaxy's central black hole confirmed
(Oct. 16, 2002)


New results published in this week's Nature appear to remove any remaining doubt that a 3.7-million-solar-mass black hole lies at the core of our galaxy. The conclusion comes from observations carried out, over the past decade at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile, of a fast-moving star, known as S2, that orbits close to the central object, referred to as Sagittarius A*. S2, which is seven times as massive as the Sun, circles the galactic center every 15.2 years, at the edge of the black hole's event horizon. Moving at the astonishing rate of 5,000 km/s, it approaches to within just 17 light-hours of the black hole itself.

See the ESO press release.

Diagram of Gamma Cephei system
First planet found in a close binary star system
(Oct. 10, 2002)


Astronomers with the McDonald Observatory Planet Search project have discovered the first planet orbiting a star in a close binary system. The discovery has important implications for the number of possible planets in our galaxy, because the majority of stars are in binary or multiple systems. Artie Hatzes, Bill Cochran, and colleagues found that the planet orbits the larger star of the Gamma Cephei system, about 45 light-years away in Cepheus. The primary star is 1.59 times as massive as the Sun, while the planet is 1.76 times as massive as Jupiter and orbits the star at a mean distance of about 2 astronomical anits (AU), a little further than Mars is from the Sun. The second, relatively small star is only 25 to 30 AU from the primary star-about Uranus' distance from the Sun. Astronomers have found planets orbiting stars in binary systems before, but the stars in those binary systems were a hundred times farther apart than those of Gamma Cephei. A third-magnitude star, Gamma Cephei can be seen with the unaided eye.

For more, go here (University of Texas).

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