Friday, August 03, 2007

Planet orbits red giant, challenges for Phoenix mission and what an intelligent signal from another planet would change about human destiny

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 -A planet orbiting a giant red star has been discovered by an astronomy team led by Penn State's Alex Wolszczan, who in 1992 discovered the first planets ever found outside our solar system. See article.
g Abodes -Martian winds could make soil and ice collection more challenging for the upcoming Phoenix Mars Lander mission. However, simulations show that winds will not likely affect onboard laboratory experiments. Phoenix is designed to analyze soil and ice on Mars to see if the planet could support microbial life. See article.
g Life - After fending off bears, surviving frostbite, and trapping furs in Siberia, Eske Willerslev turned to genetics and is now pushing the boundaries of ancient DNA research. See article.
g Message - Astrobiology has been the flavor of the last decade, particularly in the Bay Area where UC Berkeley, San Francisco State, and NASA Ames Research Center have led the field in trying to answer the kinds of mind-boggling questions prompted by the search for life in space. Is our planet an aberration, a warm spot in a cold universe — or is life practically inevitable if you throw the right chemicals together? If there's other life, what's it like? Where does it live? Is it related to us? Why doesn't it ever call or write? See Part I and Part II.
g Cosmicus - NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity may be in trouble. Dust storms on Mars have reduced the rover’s ability to gain energy from its solar panels, and emergency heaters designed to protect onboard electronics may zap the rover’s batteries if the dust doesn’t settle down soon. See article.
g Learning - Two Fairbanks, Alaska, teachers are using NASA’s latest mission to Mars to help their students and the rest of Fairbanks understand the Red Planet a little better. See article.
g Imagining -Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Theodore Sturgeon’s short story "Killdozer," published in the November 1944 edition of Astounding.
g Aftermath -What would an intelligent signal from another planet change about human destiny? This large question is the topic of the book “The SETI Factor,” by Frank White, who also analyzes how to announce such an historic finding and whether it would unite or divide nations. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.