Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Life-bearing planets within the immediate stellar neighborhood, Earth’s fate and space technologies fight TB

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 - What are the astronomical possibilities of life-bearing planets within the immediate stellar neighborhood, that is, within roughly 50 light years of Sol? See article.
g Abodes - An international team of astronomers recently discovered a planet that is orbiting an old star in the late stage of its evolution; this planetary system offers insight into the fate of the Earth. Jonathan Fortney, an Ames Planetary Scientist, recently published an article commenting on this topic in the September issue of Nature magazine.
g Life - We humans think we're pretty tough, pretty smart, and pretty much the Overlords of the Earth. Well, we are sort of smart, and we've used those smarts to make us much more tough than we are naturally. In some sense, we have, indeed, become the Overlords of the Earth. Technological wonders notwithstanding, the range of conditions that we can endure is still very limited. Of course, we view the rest of the cosmos from our own perspective. As such, we define places that we find personally uncomfortable as "extreme environments," but does this term have any real meaning for biology on Earth and for exobiology on other planets? See article. Note: This article is from 1999.
g Cosmicus - In the year that saw 50 years since the beginning of the space race, UK researchers have underlined the relevance that space technologies can have for other areas with the announcement of new research on detecting tuberculosis using technologies developed for space missions. See article.
g Aftermath - In order to retrieve samples from another place in the solar system that might harbor life, careful planning is required to ensure that mission designs incorporate measures to safeguard both the Earth and other solar system bodies from cross contamination. These measures, collectively known as planetary protection measures, are actually tied to international law. See article. Note: This article is from 1999.