Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ice world beyond Pluto and what water on Mars means for life

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 is the habitable zone for the nearby star Teegarden’s Star?
g Abodes - An icy, unknown world might lurk in the distant reaches of our solar system beyond the orbit of Pluto, according to a new computer model. See article.
g Life - A major discovery was made last week by the Phoenix Mars Lander, as it revealed that the red planet did contain ice, showing there is water. Now the question comes up, since ice has been found, what about life? See article.
g Message - Researchers probing the universe for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence got their treasure map in 2006. It came in the form of a list of 10 stars likely to be at the center of planetary systems that could support life. See article.
g Cosmicus - Mars mission Job One: Get there. Job Two: Find rocks and zap them with your laser tool. Now learn the nature of the debris by spectrographically analyzing the ensuing dust and fragments. It's every kid's dream, vaporizing pebbles on other planets, and thanks to a team at Los Alamos National Laboratory, it's going to happen. See article.
g Learning - What textbooks are college students reading in "Astrobiology 101" courses around the nation? See article.
g Imagining - What about the invading aliens from the X-Files: Are they plausible? A book released a few years ago that addresses the topic is "The Science of the X-Files", by Jeanne Cavelos. Here's a review of the book (look near the end for a discussion on the extraterrestrial biology).
g Aftermath - Clearly, if we are not alone in the universe, there are some unavoidable theological and philosophical consequences. We should reflect on the consequences of a positive result of either finding extraterrestrial microorganisms, or receiving a radio message form an extraterrestrial source: When such discovery occurs, the implications are likely to have an impact on our culture requiring adjustments possibly more radical than those arising form the evidence that humans descend from microorganisms. See article.

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