Wednesday, August 01, 2007

New class of galaxy, composing messages for ET and imagining believable, self-consistent aliens

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 -An international team of astronomers using NASA's Swift satellite and the Japanese/U.S. Suzaku X-ray observatory has discovered a new class of active galactic nuclei. See article.
g Abodes - NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has captured for the first time enough light from planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets, to identify signatures of molecules in their atmospheres. The landmark achievement is a significant step toward being able to detect life on rocky exoplanets and comes years before astronomers had anticipated. See article. Note: This article is from early 2007.
g Life - What are we looking for, exactly, when we search for alien life? What is life? See article.
g Message -Most people see the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence as a project for merely listening for signals from other stars, but Yvan Dutil and Stephane Dumas from the Defence Research Establishment Valcartier in Canada had other ideas in mind when they composed a message recently sent to the stars. See article.
g Cosmicus -NIH-sponsored research could be taking place on NASA's International Space Station in several years, if the two agencies can get an agreement off the ground. See article.
g Learning -Here’s something neat: A podcast for “Self Improvement Wednesdays” (from Australia) about astrobiology. Listen to the podcast and take the quiz.
g Imagining - Designing aliens and alien cultures is easy. It can even be profitable. Look at ET or the barroom scene in “Star Wars.” Nothing to it. Tack some funny appendages on a basically human form, paint the creature an unusual but not unappealing color, and go. Simple, right? Designing aliens and their cultures rigorously, though, building their worlds according to scientific rules, carefully and logically extrapolating extraterrestrial evolution and cultural development, creating an alien species that is believable and self-consistent, that's a different matter. That's hard. See article. Note: This article is from 1992.
g Aftermath -As we look toward exploring other worlds, and perhaps even bringing samples back to Earth for testing, astrobiologists have to wonder: could there be alien pathogens in those samples that will wreak havoc on our world? See article.