Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Liquid methane lakes, help SETI discover alien life and the possibility of noncorporeal life

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 - Evidence for a significant new class of supernova has been found with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton. These results strengthen the case for a population of stars that evolve rapidly and are destroyed by thermonuclear explosions. Such "prompt" supernovas could be valuable tools for probing the early history of the cosmos. See http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0701/07supernova/.
g Abodes - Cassini scientists think there are liquid-filled lakes on Titan. Rather than water, these lakes on Saturn's largest moon are made of liquid methane. These lakes are the strongest evidence yet that Titan's surface and atmosphere have an active hydrological cycle. See http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.phpop=modload&name=
g Message - Want to help SETI discover alien life? If you haven’t already done so, download the free SETI at Home software. Using Internet-connected computers, the program downloads and analyzes radio telescope data on your desktop when it is idle. The program has been so successful in plowing through data that other scientific researchers, especially in medicine, are adopting it to their fields. See http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/ for the program.
g Cosmicus - There are many practical benefits to space exploration. Advances in space technology have a dramatic effect on Earth technology. Benefits range from new ergonomic solutions for people who do repetitive work to industrial medical X-ray machines. Listed below are several of these benefits. See http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/benefits/index.html. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Alien Safari.” New from NASA PlanetQuest, Alien Safari can be used in your classrooms or informal education settings to help kids discover some of the most extreme organisms on our planet, and find out what they are telling astrobiologists about the search for life beyond Earth. See http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/AlienSafari_launch_page.html.
g Imagining - Can life ever be noncorporeal, as are Star Trek’s Organians? See http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/P/plasma-based_life.html.
g Aftermath - A 1998 report by the National Research Council Space Studies Board Task Group on Sample Return from Small Solar System Bodies assesses the potential for a living entity to be present in or on samples returned from small solar system bodies such as planetary satellites, asteroids and comets. See http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ssb/.