READING I’m almost finished reading “Centauri Dreams: Imagining and Planning Interstellar Exploration” by Paul Gilster. It provides a great review of the possible means of propulsion to take a spacecraft to the nearest stars. Some would argue it’s impossible to travel to the stars. The nearest star, Alpha Centauri, is 10,000 times farther away than the planets we already send spacecrafts to.
This book offers inspiration for us to take the next large leap in mankind’s remarkable capacity to explore beyond the horizon. I came away with a clear answer as to the best means of propulsion to get to the stars: solar sails. The idea is for a spacecraft to unfurl an enormous sail very much like a sailboat, but this would be miles across. What the sail would do is capture not wind but photons from the sun. Photons carry momentum, and these photons would hit the sail and push the spacecraft the way wind pushes a sail on a sailboat. I would love to leave Earth’s orbit and view the Earth from far above. I think it would give me a perspective about this small, fragile, blue dot that we spend our lives on.
LISTENING I like all kinds of music but right now, I am wild about Cuban and Latin jazz. I just bought the album “No Limit” by Roberto Fonseca. Before listening, tighten your dancing shoes on your feet or you’ll be hopping out of them. It has this offbeat syncopation that really has you wanting to start dancing on top of the table.
WATCHING I absolutely love the series “Keeping Score,” the PBS program by Michael Tilson Thomas, who is the conductor of the San Francisco Symphony. The episode on the musical intimacy of Gustav Mahler was amazing.
And I dearly loved “Samsara,” filmed in 25 countries showing the diverse cultures, natural beauty and remarkable oddities of human behavior. There is no narration, but a series of fantastic scenes that speak for themselves.
PURCHASING I just purchased an optical zoom telephoto lens that fits onto my iPhone 5. It gives 12x magnification, costing only $19 and comes with a small tripod. I hope to take pictures of Jupiter’s Galilean moons and the Orion Nebula.
Also I bought a Mova globe for myself and two more as gifts. The globes rotate with no apparent power and seem to be floating on air.
Kate Murphy is a journalist in Houston who writes frequently for The New York Times.Planning Interstellar Exploration, San Francisco Symphony, Roberto Fonseca, alpha centauri, Michael Tilson Thomas, Paul Gilster, nearest stars <BR/>
- UC Berkeley Astronomer Geoff Marcy Appointed to Alberts Chair in SETI
- Alpha Centauri Stars & Planet Explained: Our Nearest Neighbors (Infographic)
- Astronomers Debate Where 1st Interstellar Starship Should Go Exploring
- Transit of Venus on June 6, a rare spectacle
- Transit of Venus Lecture Series – UCSC Astronomy