Saturday, July 14, 2007

Planetary debris polluting dwarf stars, Mars’ shifting ice caps and the case against ‘little green men’

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 - Scientists have found that the iron-enriched surfaces of dwarf stars that harbor planets may be caused by planetary debris 'polluting' the stars. The findings could yield new information about distant planetary systems. See article.
g Abodes - Mars' eccentric wobble once shifted ice caps from one pole to the other. See article.
g Message - Quote of the Day: “Where is everybody?” — Enrico Fermi
g Cosmicus - NASA's next Mars mission is ready for an August launch. When it reaches Mars, the Phoenix Mars Lander will dig beneath the icy martian soil to see if frozen water near the surface could periodically melt and provide a habitat for past or present life. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity, courtesy of NASA: “The Drake Equation.” Students estimate the number of civilizations in the galaxy by first estimating the number of craters on the Moon and then by performing estimates of multiple-variable systems culminating in the use of the Drake Equation. See article.
g Imagining - Not so long ago, putative extraterrestrials were the color of moss. Generic space aliens were inevitably described as “Little Green Men,” probably because an avocado complexion is dramatically unlike any human skin tint. Green was alien, in other words. Today, scientists dismiss that sci fi idea. So what’s their case against “little green men”? See Note: This article is from May.
g Aftermath - A SETI detection will have important consequences for society. So at the International Astronautics Federation’s annual get-together in Rio de Janeiro a few years ago, Hungarian astronomer Ivan Almar and SETI Institute researcher Jill Tarter proposed the Rio Scale for ranking both the importance and credibility of claims that evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence has been found. See

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