Monday, April 17, 2006

‘Empty’ sky, ‘fifth’ planet and SETI alternatives

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - An image made of about 300 million pixels is being released by ESO, based on more than 64 hours of observations with the Wide-Field Camera on the 2.2m telescope at La Silla (Chile). The image covers an “empty” region of the sky five times the size of the full moon, opening an exceptionally clear view towards the most distant part of our universe. It reveals objects that are 100 million times fainter than what the unaided eye can see. See
g Abodes - A fifth terrestrial planet may once have orbited between Mars and Jupiter. Although gravitational disturbances would have sent the planet hurtling into the sun or out into space long ago, traces of this long-gone world may still be visible in part of the asteroid belt today. See
g Life - The discovery of a possible hibernation hormone in the brain may unlock the mystery behind the dormant state, researchers report. Hibernation allows animals from bears to rodents to survive unscathed - in a state of suspended animation - under the harshest of winter conditions. See
g Intelligence - A mathematical analysis of humpbacked whale song shows it follows complex grammatical rules. Using syntax, the whales combine sounds into phrases, which they further weave into hours-long melodies packed with information. See http://www.livescience.
g Message - On an episode of “The Space Show” last year, Scot Stride, a senior engineer at NASA JPL in Pasadena, Calif., was the guest for this Space Show program. Stride discussed SETI programs with us and highlighted his discussion with the SETI alternatives, SETV (Search for ET Visitation) and S3ETI (Solar System SETI). Stride provided listeners with a superb background and history on SETI, how it started and how it became what it is today. He also discussed the Allen Telescope Array and what it will mean for future SETI efforts. To hear a copy of the show, see
g Cosmicus - The European Space Agency has taken a further step in preparing for participation in Mars Sample Return, the landmark mission to return samples from the Red Planet, with the announcement of the next phase of industrial activity. See
g Learning - Here’s a great resource for middle school science teachers; “Life on Other Planets in the Solar System.” See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Timothy Zahn’s novel “Conqueror's Pride,” published by Bantam Spectra in 1994.
g Aftermath - Astronomers are searching hard for that first interstellar phone-call from ET. But when it happens, how will we react? Will it be a major trauma for humankind, or a new beginning? See