Friday, August 31, 2007

Five oceans worth of water circle young star, water vapor found on hot Jupiter and studying extremophiles

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 at the University of Rochester have discovered five Earth-oceans' worth of water that has recently fallen into the planet-forming region around an extremely young, developing star. See article.
g Abodes - An international team of researchers, including members of NASA Astrobiology Institute's Virtual Planetary Laboratory team used NASA's Spitzer Space telescope to detect the presence of water vapor on the hot Jupiter HD Catalog 189733b. See article.
g Life - Studying extremophiles on Earth may provide helpful metrics in our search for life elsewhere in the universe. See article.
g Message - Whenever the director of SETI research presents a public lecture, she can almost guarantee that “What If everybody is listening and nobody is transmitting?” will be one of the questions the audience asks. See article.
g Cosmicus - SpaceDev has been awarded a contract to develop a prototype lunar lander vehicle for the International Lunar Observatory Association. See article.
g Learning - Here are some neat tips for getting started in stargazing; they are intended primarily for unaided vision sky observation and the use of binoculars.
g Imagining - Here’s a neat Web site: The Exorarium. At the Exorarium, visitors get a chance to mix and match the same ingredients that brought about human life, shaping their own unique intelligent life forms. For example, you might start with a hot or cool star, a heavy or light planet, one with lots of water or a desert world, and so on – until a unique ecosystem takes shape before your eyes … a family tree leading to the ultimate outcome, a species of intelligent life. See article.
g Aftermath - Communication with extraterrestrial intelligence depends as much upon social support for the project as upon appropriate engineering design and upon the actual existence of a nearby extrasolar civilization. The results of a sociological survey of 1,465 American college students provide the first detailed analysis of the social and ideological factors that influence support for CETI, thereby suggesting ways that support might be increased. Linked to the most idealistic goals of the space program, notably interplanetary colonization, enthusiasm for CETI is little affected by attitudes toward technology or militarism. Few sciences or scholarly fields encourage CETI, with the exceptions of anthropology and astronomy. Support is somewhat greater among men than among women, but the sex difference is far less than in attitudes toward space flight in general. Evangelical Protestantism, represented by the "Born Again" movement, strongly discourages support for CETI. Just as exobiology begins with an understanding of terrestrial biology, exosociology on the question of how interstellar contact can be achieved should begin with serious sociological study of factors operating on our own world. See article.