Monday, July 17, 2006

First star, winter at Gusev Crater and Discovery returns home

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. You may notice that this and future entries are shorter than usual; Career, family and book deal commitments have forced me to cut back some of my projects. Now, here’s today’s news:
g Stars - For many millions of years after our universe first formed no stars existed, and then there was one. That primordial star was likely a massive blazing behemoth that burned brighter and faster than any star around today. A new computer model now suggests that it also formed much earlier than previously thought. See http://www.
g Abodes - From its winter outpost at "Low Ridge" inside Gusev Crater, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit took this spectacular, color mosaic of hilly, sandy terrain and two potential iron meteorites. The two light-colored, smooth rocks about two-thirds of the way up from the bottom of the frame have been labeled "Zhong Shan" and "Allan Hills." See
g Life - How is the deep sea like a desert island? It sounds like a child's riddle, but it's actually a serious scientific question with implications for both terrestrial and marine biology. Biologists have long observed that when animals colonize and evolve on isolated islands, small animals tend to become larger while large animals tend to become smaller. Recent research suggests that a similar trend affects animals as they adapt to life in the deep sea. See
g Intelligence - People who live by themselves are at twice the risk of serious heart problems compared to those who have a partner. See
g Message - Looking for life elsewhere is a tough task for human or robot. The good news is that the scientific skill and tools to search for, detect and inspect extraterrestrial life are advancing rapidly. See
g Cosmicus - Space shuttle Discovery touched down at 9:14 a.m. EDT on Kennedy Space Center's Runway 15, breaking through clouds covering the Florida spaceport on final approach. The crew had to change runways late in the descent due to dramatically developing weather in the path to the original runway selection. See
g Learning - What are university students learning about astrobiology? Check out "An Introduction to Astrobiology." Compiled by a team of experts, this textbook has been designed for elementary university courses in astrobiology. It begins with an examination of how life may have arisen on Earth and then reviews the evidence for possible life on Mars, Europa and Titan. The potential for life in exoplanetary systems and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence are also discussed. The text contains numerous useful learning features such as boxed summaries, student exercises with full solutions, and a glossary of terms. It is also supported by a Web site hosting further teaching materials. Written in an accessible style that avoids complex mathematics, this book is suitable for self-study and will appeal to amateur enthusiasts as well as undergraduate students. It contains numerous helpful learning features such as boxed summaries, student exercises with full solutions, and a glossary of terms. The book is also supported by a Website hosting further teaching materials. See http://www.sci
g Imagining - Like short stories about alien biology? Larry Niven’s “Eye of an Octopus” examines how Martians might have existed in an atmosphere of nitric oxide. The story is collected in Niven’s “Tales of Known Space: The Universe of Larry Niven.” See
g Aftermath - In order to retrieve samples from another place in the solar system that might harbor life, careful planning is required to ensure that mission designs incorporate measures to safeguard both the Earth and other solar system bodies from cross contamination. These measures, collectively known as planetary protection measures, are actually tied to international law. See Note: This article is from 1999.