Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Galactic Bermuda Triangle, life in a barren desert and spacecraft propulsion breakthrough

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 - Call it the Bermuda Triangle of our Milky Way Galaxy: a tiny patch of sky that has been known for years to be the source of the mysterious blasts of X-rays and gamma rays. Now, a team of astronomers, led by Don Figer of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., has solved the mystery by identifying one of the most massive star clusters in the galaxy. See article. For related story, see “Source of Space Fireworks Discovered”.
g Abodes - Its barren topography is often described as a moonscape. But kick the dirt and the stark, rocky terrain at Joshua Tree National Park is among the liveliest places on the planet. That's according to new research that says soil there teems with bacteria - even more than in dirt in the Amazon rain forest. See article.
g Life - When Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species” in 1859, he gave a convincing account of how life has evolved over billions of years from simple microbes to the complexity of the Earth's biosphere today. But he pointedly left out how life got started. One might as well speculate about the origin of matter, he quipped. Today scientists have a good idea of how matter originated in the Big Bang, but the origin of life remains shrouded in mystery. See article.
g Intelligence - A new study finds that a cell once believed to serve neurons instead may perform the crucial function of regulating blood flow in the brain. See article.
g Message - For more than 80 years, we’ve been sending radio (and eventually television) transmissions into space, allowing anyone in space to hear war reports from London, “I Love Lucy” reruns and our latest election results. So wouldn’t hearing aliens be as simple as turning on the radio? Here’s why not: article.
g Cosmicus - The European Space Agency and the Australian National University have successfully tested a new design of spacecraft ion engine that dramatically improves performance over present thrusters and marks a major step forward in space propulsion capability. See article.
g Learning - Every new stargazer thinks the first thing they need to get started in astronomy is a telescope, only to discover that they don't know how to find anything with it in the sky. The problem, of course, is that they don't know the bright stars and major constellations. Unfortunately, many never find the help they need and give up astronomy and stick their telescope in the closet. With proper advice and guidance, anyone can turn into a star-hopping skymaster. See article.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Marc Bilgrey’s "Random Acts," in the anthology “First Contact,” edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff (published by DAW in 1997).
g Aftermath - The scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence is accelerating its pace and adopting fresh strategies. This increases the likelihood of successful detection in the near future. Humanity's first contact with alien intelligence will trigger extraordinary attention from the media, from government authorities, and from the general public. By improving our readiness for contact, especially for security during the first 30 days, we can avoid the most negative scenarios — and also enhance humanity's benefits from this first contact with an alien intelligence. Six potential problem areas include communicating with the media and the public, communicating with scientific colleagues, government control, an assassin or saboteur, well-meaning officials and lawsuits. See article.

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