Saturday, December 15, 2007

Planet hunters’ observational bias and 5,000 orbits for Mars Express

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 - More than half of the stars in our galaxy have a stellar companion. And yet, of the 130 or so currently known exoplanets (none of which are Earth-like), only about 20 of them are around so-called binaries. The percentage may grow higher. The current ratio is affected by an observational bias: planet hunters tend to avoid binaries because the star-star interactions can hide the planet signatures. See article.
g Abodes - The European Space Agency's Mars Express mission has now completed 5,000 orbits of Mars. In nearly four years of operation, Mars Express has returned valuable data about the diverse surface of Mars and has helped scientists understand the history of the planet's geology and climate. See article.
g Cosmicus - A private spaceflight firm is developing a new unmanned spacecraft in hopes of delivering cargo for NASA missions to the International Space Station. See article.
g Learning - Book alert: Here’s a neat, fictional post-Apollo, Shuttle-derived lunar architecture as portrayed in Homer Hickam's "Back to the Moon.”

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