Thursday, April 27, 2006

Starburst galaxy, ‘Habitable Planets for Man’ and sending humans to Mars

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 - To celebrate the NASA-ESA Hubble Space Telescope's 16 years of success, the two space agencies are releasing this mosaic image of the magnificent starburst galaxy, Messier 82 (M82). It is the sharpest wide-angle view ever obtained of M82, a galaxy remarkable for its webs of shredded clouds and flame-like plumes of glowing hydrogen blasting out from its central regions. See article.
g Abodes - Book alert: Here’s a classic — “Habitable Planets for Man,” by Stephen H. Dale. As one reviewer writes, “This book was written in 1970 as an analysis of what sort of planet would be inhabitable by humans on a permanent basis (colonization), and what are the chances of finding such planets around nearby stars. The book looks at human requirements, such as temperature, gravity, atmospheric composition, etc. Then other factors are reviewed, such as solar system organization, stellar properties, satellite relationships, special properties of binary star systems, etc. This book makes for some very interesting reading. It is rather dated, though, with the mass of Pluto being placed at equivalent to the Earths, and with water oceans being speculated about for Venus. Admittedly, this probably does mean that some of the conclusions are suspect. However, the depth of information in this book does make it an interesting resource for science-fiction authors, and other interested in speculating about extra-solar planets for man.” See reviews.
g Life - Contrary to traditional wisdom, being a leftie promotes survival from attacks, at least in the world of snails and crabs, according to a report by researchers at Yale and Cornell in the Biology Letters of the Royal Society, UK. See article.
g Intelligence - If you dread going to the dentist, be thankful you didn't live in the Stone Age. Roughly 8,000 years before Novocaine and some 7,300 years before they could even swig whiskey to dull the pain, prehistoric patients were having holes drilled into their teeth with drill bits carved from stone. See article.
g Message - Here’s something neat albeit technical: A slide show presentation of "Spectrum Environment of the Allen Telescope Array".
g Cosmicus - The European Space Agency doesn’t have any concrete plans to send humans to Mars, but they’ve already begun making preparations for the trip. A small Italian-French crew is currently spending a year in a remote Antarctic research station, to learn how to handle the individual psychological problems and the stresses on group dynamics that can occur under such difficult, isolated conditions. See article.
g Learning - This module, from the Japan Science and Technology Corporation, provides excellent background to the search for life in the universe, for kids. There is information about all the planets in the solar system and possibilities for life beyond, as well as descriptions of spacecraft and signals that originate from Earth (requires Flash plug-in). See module.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Murray Leinster’s short story "The Castaway,” published in the June 1953 edition of Universe magazine.
g Aftermath - Scientists should pay greater attention to discussing the social implications of discovering extraterrestrial life - even though many researchers shy away from the subject because they don't consider it "hard" science. See lesson.

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