Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Antennae galaxies’ star births, Martian water and satellite solar power stations

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 - A new Hubble image of the Antennae galaxies is the sharpest yet of this merging pair of galaxies. As the two galaxies smash together, billions of stars are born, mostly in groups and clusters of stars. See article.
g Abodes - For a number of decades now, astronomers have wondered about water on Mars. Thanks to ESA's Mars Express, much of the speculation has been replaced with facts. Launched on 2 June 2003, Mars Express has changed the way we think of Mars. See http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0610/17marswater/.
g Life - Two Northwestern University engineers have been studying the whisker system of rats to better understand how mechanical information from the whiskers gets transmitted to the brain and to develop artificial whisker arrays for engineering applications. See http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.phpop=modload&name=News
g Cosmicus - We don't yet know what satellite solar power stations will look like 50 years from now. But we do know how big they'll be: they'll be hundreds of square kilometers in area - otherwise they won't generate enough power to have a significant impact on humans' growing energy needs. See http://www.spacefuture.com/power/largescale.shtml.