Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Supernovae half the universe’s age, exoplanet’s temperatures and effect of discovering alien microscopic bugs

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 - Researchers at the University of Copenhagen's Dark Cosmology Centre at the Niels Bohr Institute have brought us one step closer to understanding what the universe is made of. As part of the international collaboration ESSENCE they have observed distant supernovae, some of which emitted the light we now see more than half the age of the universe ago. Using these supernovae they have traced the expansion history of the universe with unprecedented accuracy and sharpened our knowledge of what it might be that is causing the mysterious acceleration of the expansion of the universe. See
g Abodes - New measurements for three planets outside our solar system indicate their temperatures remain fairly constant - and blazing hot - from day to night, even though it is likely one side of each planet always faces its sun and the other is in permanent darkness. Studying environmental processes on distant planets may one day help in the search for habitable locations beyond our solar system. See
g Cosmicus - Space exploration should not be viewed as an expense, but rather an investment. NASA’s annual budget is less than 1% of the total annual federal budget, or about 15 cents per day for the average citizen. Space technology advances have created countless industries, spawned millions of jobs and generated billions of dollars into the economy – an immeasurable return on America’s investment. If the United States is to maintain a healthy economy, we must continue to invest in leading-edge research and exploration. Today’s indulgent culture spends and risks far more for a far less return. Exploration and its results have an impact on everyone in this country, and will for generations to come. See
g Imagining - A complaint lodged again and again against science fiction aliens is that they look too much like us. Is that complaint valid? Is it so unlikely that extraterrestrials would look at least similar (though not identical) to humans? If so, then what would beings, intelligent or not so intelligent, who evolved on another world look like? That's what Cliff Pickover explores in The Science of Aliens.Though the book is a few years old, it’s still worth reading. There’s a review of it at and an interview with the author at
g Aftermath - Even if the public seems less than awestruck by the prospect that alien life is a bunch of microscopic bugs, astrobiologists say unequivocal discovery of microbial life beyond Earth will change human society in profound ways, some unfathomable today. See Note: This article is from 2001.