Thursday, June 08, 2006

Beta Pictoris’ carbon-rich worlds, cosmic radiation’s effect on human evolution and space habitats

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Scientists using NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, or FUSE, have discovered abundant amounts of carbon gas in a dusty disk surrounding a well-studied young star named Beta Pictoris. The star's planets could be exotic, carbon-rich worlds of graphite, diamond and methane. See
g Abodes - A small, near-Earth asteroid named Itokawa is just a pile of floating rubble, probably created from the breakup of an ancient planet, according to a University of Michigan researcher that was part of the Japanese space mission Hayabusa. See http://www.astro
g Life - Oregon researchers say organisms are adapting to altered seasons and not to direct effects of increasing temperatures. See
g Intelligence - After decades of focusing their attentions skyward, a husband and wife team of astronomers – now in their 80s – are grappling with a question that seems, at first light, to be far, far away from astronomy. Namely: Why did modern humans and other species emerge some 40,000 years ago? Their answer: Cosmic radiation, which the Meinels will elaborate on June 20 in a noon public lecture at the University of San Diego, part of the annual meeting of the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. See
g Message - In the search for life on other worlds, scientists can listen for radio transmissions from stellar neighborhoods where intelligent civilizations might lurk or they can try to actually spot planets like our own in habitable zones around nearby stars. Either approach is tricky and relies on choosing the right targets for scrutiny out of the many thousands of nearby stars in our galactic neighborhood. See
g Cosmicus - For humanity to truly become a spacefaring race, we will need to construct permanent space habitats, a space station intended as a permanent settlement rather than as a simple waystation or other specialized facility. It would be a "city" in space, where people would live, work and raise families. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat Web site in which Monica Grady, head of petrology and meteoritics in the department of mineralogy at the Natural History Museum, presents a comprehensive introduction to astrobiology:
g Imagining - Could the universe be populated by aggressive intelligent species, such as science fiction’s Alien and Predator? SETI senior astronomer Seth Shostak offers some thoughts at
g Aftermath - Would dutiful American citizens trust the government to handle first contact with extraterrestrials and rush to get information to the public? See Note: This article is from 1999.