Monday, February 12, 2007

Ulysses reaches heliosphere’s maximum latitude, testing the Fermi Paradox and societal implications of astrobiology

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 - The Ulysses spacecraft has reached maximum latitude in its exploration of the heliosphere, the bubble in space blown out by the solar wind. The craft's position provides a unique look at the Sun and how it affects the environment of the Solar System. See
g Abodes - Astronomers from the University of Virginia and other institutions have found that Enceladus, the sixth-largest moon of Saturn, is a "cosmic graffiti artist," pelting the surfaces of at least 11 other moons of Saturn with ice particles sprayed from its spewing surface geysers. This ice sandblasts the other moons, creating a reflective surface that makes them among the brightest bodies in the solar system. See
g Intelligence - A new study reveals that a cluster of genes, involved in immune function among other things, could predict how sexually attracted a person is to a partner and how likely a woman is be faithful to her mate. Couples in which the individuals had dissimilar versions of so-called major histocompatibility complex genes had the greatest sexual compatibility. See
g Message - To subject the Fermi Paradox to needed experimental testing, a researcher has offered the Artifact Hypothesis: A technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilization has undertaken a long-term program of' interstellar exploration via transmission of material artifacts.
g Cosmicus - In just months, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is set to surpass the record for the most science data ever returned by a Mars spacecraft. Even so, two instruments onboard are not performing as planned and engineers are examining why. See .phpop=modload&name=
g Learning - Here’s a cool set of classroom lessons courtesy of NASA: Astroventure, in which students search for and design a habitable planet. See
g Imagining - Like stories about communicating with aliens? Scour your used bookstore for Ian Watson’s “The Embedding” (1973).
g Aftermath - What are the societal implications of astrobiology? A NASA workshop in 1999 set out to determine what they might be. Here’s their report: