Thursday, October 26, 2006

How Cassiopeia A blew up, PlanetQuest and terraforming Mars

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 - Astronomers using NASA's infrared Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered that an exploded star, named Cassiopeia A, blew up in a somewhat orderly fashion, retaining much of its original onion-like layering. See
g Abodes - Ever want to discover a new world? That’s what we are planning to have folks do with PlanetQuest, a distributed computing screen saver that will allow anyone to find extrasolar planets on their own computer. Like the venerable, but distinct from the new planetary-systems-generating program of the OKLO project at UC Santa Cruz, PlanetQuest will enable users to discover real planets around other stars using four different detection techniques. See
g Cosmicus - Behold Mars, a frozen and hostile world with temperatures below those of an arctic winter, lacking all but the wisp of an atmosphere. Is it only an impossible science fantasy to turn such a remote and alien landscape into one that will support human and other Earth-born life? Actually, there are good reasons to believe that this process, called "terraforming," will become technically feasible in the next few decades. In fact, terraforming techniques may be highly developed by the time other circumstances allow us to use them, and the hard part may be to choose the best plan from many possibilities. See Note: This article is from 1996.