Saturday, January 21, 2006

Getting to know Pluto, ‘Flies in Space’ and ‘The Allure of Bone and Ice’

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 - Black holes are creating havoc in unsuspected places, according to a new study of images of elliptical galaxies made by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The discovery of far-reaching explosive activity, due to giant central black holes in these old galaxies, was a surprise to astronomers. See article.
g Abodes - In the not-too-distant past, the planet Pluto was thought to be an odd bird in the outer reaches of the solar system because it has a moon, Charon, that was formed much like Earth's own moon was formed. But Pluto is getting a lot of company these days. Of the four largest objects in the Kuiper belt, three have one or more moons. See article. For related stories, see “Probe sets sail on voyage to the outer solar system” and “More pictures, video from New Horizons launch”.
g Life - Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? Here’s how scientists are looking for it. See article.
g Intelligence - A new retinal photoreceptor adjusts its sensitivity in different lighting conditions, according to scientists at Brown University, where the rare eye cells were discovered. The findings provide further evidence that the eye has complementary brain-signaling systems at work. See article.
g Message - The question of whether we are alone in the universe is one of the biggest of the Big Questions of Existence. One way to settle the matter is to find some cosmic company. A direct approach to this problem is to scan the skies with radio telescopes in the hope of stumbling across a message from an alien civilization. See article. Note: This article is from 2005.
g Cosmicus - NASA will pay the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) $21.8 million per passenger for Soyuz rides to and from the International Space Station starting this spring. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat Web site, courtesy of NASA: “Flies in Space”. For grades 5-8, the activity has students step into a space biologist's shoes and predict experiment results.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Linda P. Baker’s short story "The Allure of Bone and Ice." It’s in the anthology “First Contact,” edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff (published by DAW in 1997).
g Aftermath - Could religions survive contact with extraterrestrials? The Medieval Church didn't think so, as the discovery would challenge mankind's central role in the cosmos. Today such ideas are considered old fashioned, and many theologians welcome the discovery of life — even intelligent life — among the stars. But if scientists were to find microscopic Martians or a signal from another world, would established religions really take it in stride? For a discussion, check out this past program of SETI’s “Are We Alone?” Note: An mp3 player is required to play the audio files; you can download one at the site for free.

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