Thursday, June 05, 2008

Smallest yet extrasolar planet observed and false detection of alien 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 Ross 248?
g Abodes - Astronomers have discovered the smallest yet observed extrasolar planet. The planet is only three times more massive than Earth, and has proven that low-mass stars may be good candidates for hosting Earth-like planets. See article.
g Life - Astrobiologists hope to find evidence for life on Mars. Sending spacecraft from Earth to study the planet could introduce biological contamination, however, and lead to a false detection of alien life. New research adds to these concerns with evidence that ATP - an energy-storage molecule vital to life on Earth - could survive for months or even years onboard a Martian probe. See article.
g Message - Maybe it’s time to put some new numbers into the Drake Equation. See article.
g Cosmicus - Expanding its existing relationship with NASA, Google on Wednesday said it plans to lease 42.2 acres of unimproved land at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., to construct up to 1.2 million square feet of offices and research space. See article.
g Aftermath - If, as “The X-Files'” Fox Mulder might say, "The truth is out there," then the researchers running the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence program are likely to be the first ones to find it. On the other hand, there are numerous people who believe they've already been in contact with aliens. National Geographic's video ”Phantom Quest: The Search for Extraterrestrials” studies the claims of both groups, ultimately seeking to reveal precisely what an encounter with beings from another planet could mean for humanity. See article.