Saturday, November 03, 2007

Dead stars collide, life interacting with planets and volcanoes warming Mars

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 massive explosion in the deep reaches of space stemmed not from one dying star, as is typical, but from two dead ones that collided as the climax of a long orbital dance, new research shows. See article.
g Abodes - Currently, Mars appears to be completely hostile to life as we know it. New research, however, raises the possibility that volcanoes on Mars might not be extinct and if they were to erupt they could dramatically alter the Martian climate. They might even make the planet warmer and more hospitable. See article.
g Life - "Astrobiology has to do with how life interacts with planets, moons, and other bodies in our cosmos," says Dr. Barry Blumberg, director of NASA's Astrobiology Institute. Blumberg says there may be life on these planets that is similar to what we find on earth. "The notion is that if we understand it on earth, it will help us to identify life on other planets." See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Message - A “portrait of humanity” recently was taken by Simon Bell, a photographer from Toronto. It is half of a stereo pair, two images that when properly focused together, reveal the scene’s third dimension. The photograph was envisioned as part of a message for the Cassini mission to Saturn and its moon Titan, launched in late 1997. It would have been an artifact in the tradition of the Voyager Record and the “Visions of Mars” CD ROM. Unlike the Voyager Record it was not intended to leave the solar system to be found by the crew of an advanced starship. Unlike Visions it was not for humans in the next few centuries. Its fate would have been to remain on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan, waiting for eons of time against the slim chance that life might someday appear on that strange world, or that some other space traveler might visit Titan and find it. The image, inscribed on a diamond wafer about the size of a coin, was intended to show an intelligent alien on Titan viewer a little about our bodies, about our relationships with each other, and about our planet. See article.
g Cosmicus - Scientists are using data from a powerful mineral-mapping camera in order to select a landing site for NASA's next Mars rover mission. The rover, dubbed the Mars Science Laboratory, will assess whether or not Mars ever had an environment capable of supporting life. See article.
g Learning - Wish I could have been a student in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Monday: Livingston Holder Jr., who trained extensively to fly in the space shuttle but never got the chance to go to space when his mission was canceled in the wake of the Challenger disaster in January 1986, spoke in several schools. See article.

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