Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Supernova remnant, light exoplanets and astroecologists

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 - Astronomers have spotted exploding stars called supernovas in various stages of evolution. But until now they had no clear view of when a supernova becomes what’s called a remnant. See article.
g Abodes - A team of French and Swiss astronomers have discovered one of the lightest exoplanets ever found using the HARPS instrument on ESO's 3.6-m telescope at La Silla, Chile. The new planet orbits a star belonging to the class of red dwarfs. As these stars are very common, this discovery proves crucial in the census of other planetary systems. See article.
g Life - Take a pot of scalding water, remove all the oxygen, mix in a bit of poisonous carbon monoxide, and add a pinch of hydrogen gas. It sounds like a recipe for a witch's brew. It may be, but it is also the preferred environment for a microbe known as Carboxydothermus hydrogenoformans. See article.
g Intelligence - In July, British researchers dropped a bombshell by reporting the discovery of 40,000-year-old human footprints in a layer of volcanic ash in central Mexico. The finding was highly controversial because it challenged the traditionally accepted view that humans first arrived in North America around 11,000 years ago after crossing the Bering Strait, a land bridge that once connected Russia and Alaska. In a new twist, other scientists have performed their own dating of the volcanic ash and obtained wildly different results. See article.
g Message - On Nov. 16, 1974, astronomer Frank Drake dedicated a new observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, by sending humankind's first deliberate communication to extraterrestrials. This story appeared Oct. 24 at See article.
g Cosmicus - XCOR's EZ-Rocket flew into the history books on Saturday. The craft made a record-setting point-to-point flight, departing here from the Mojave California Spaceport, gliding to a touchdown at a neighboring airport in California City. See article.
g Learning - What does an astroecologist do? Here’s a primer for kids.
g Imagining - Like stories about alien anthropology and cultures? Scour your used bookstore or local library for Robert Holdstock’s “Eye Among the Blind” (1976), in which an anthropologist becomes identified with an alien culture.
g Aftermath - Among scientists involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, it’s quite common to be focused on the future, ever mindful that it could take years, or even decades, to find a signal from otherworldly intelligence. But if historian Steve Dick has his way, astronomers will also turn their attention toward the past as they search for life beyond Earth — to discover the aftereffects of contact between two intelligent cultures. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.

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