Thursday, May 19, 2005

Exoplanet hide and seek and Titanic quilt

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars – MOST, Canada's first space telescope, has turned up an important clue about the atmosphere and cloud cover of a mysterious planet around another star, by playing a cosmic game of “hide and seek” as that planet moves behind its parent star in its orbit. See article. For related story: “'Tail wagging dog' seen in star-exoplanet system”.
g Abodes – Scientists have turned to image analysis to understand their highly successful landing on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Since January, the team has produced representative pictures of the mysterious river-like patterns. The current interpretation of these lines is that flowing liquid methane cuts them. Some of them may have been produced by precipitation run-off, producing a dense network of narrow channels and features with sharp branching angles. Some others may have been produced by sapping or sub-surface flows, giving shape to short stubby channels that join at 90-degree angles. See article.
g Life – Every school kid marvels at the bizarre plates running down the backbone of the weird-looking Stegosaurus, but paleontologists still don't agree on what they're for. Four researchers now argue that if you cut into them it's obvious they're not useful for combat, defense or even regulating a dinosaur's internal temperature. They're probably just ornaments to allow one stegosaur to recognize another of its own species, says UC Berkeley's Kevin Padian. See article.
g Intelligence – Fossilized human bones found in the Czech Republic have been dated back some 31,000 years, confirming them as the oldest known examples of Homo sapiens ever found in Europe, a study says. See article.

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