Thursday, March 26, 2009

Proving exoworlds’ habitability and ‘Faint Echoes’

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 Abodes - Astronomers are close to discovering Earth-sized planets in Earth-like orbits around distant stars – but the real question is, are they habitable? Do they have Earth-like atmospheres? Such questions may prove very difficult to answer. See article.
g Message - Book alert: In “Faint Echoes, Distant Stars: The Science and Politics of Finding Life Beyond Earth,” Ben Bova proffers a good general history of astrobiology, or the history and structure of life in the cosmos -one of the newest fields of scientific research. He covers astronomy briefly and gives more detail about the political and technological history of NASA, showing the effects of politics and accidents on the field. He also notes what we have discovered about the history of life on this planet, what we are looking for beyond Earth and the solar system, and how we are presently going about it. With so much to cover, this is hardly an in-depth account, but it is a very good introduction for the general reader and even the specialist who wants a look at the larger picture. Bova seasons his account with entertaining and illustrative historical anecdotes, so that, as a bonus, we get an idea of what NASA has been doing since the end of the Apollo program and something about what it hopes to do in the future that many readers will live to see. See article.
g Cosmicus - NASA-funded researchers have made an important discovery regarding the loss of bone that astronauts experience while in space. The team has developed countermeasures that are effective in reducing the amount of bone loss in the hip. The method could aid astronauts on long-duration missions to the moon, Mars and beyond. See article.

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