Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sol’s astrosphere and how nickel helped life evolve

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars - In a paper to appear in Astrobiology, David Smith at the University of Arizona in Tucson and John Scalo at the University of Texas, Austin, calculated the squeezing of various stars' protective "astrospheres". They found Earth is exposed to between one and 10 interstellar assaults every billion years. Habitable planets around a red dwarf, which account for three of every four stars, are never exposed. That's because they need to be close to these dim stars to be warm enough to be habitable. See article.
g Abodes - The rise of oxygen on early Earth may have been caused by a microbial changing of the guard between methane-producers and oxygen-producers. This swap may have been initiated by a drop in the ocean's nickel abundance. Continuing studies of the world's largest iron ore deposits could cement the case. See article.
g Life - The capability of detecting biomarkers, such as amino acids, in chemically complex field samples is essential to establishing the knowledge required to search for chemical signatures of life in future planetary explorations. However, due to the complexities of in situ investigations, it is important to establish a new analytical scheme that utilizes a minimal amount of sample preparation. A new research paper reports the feasibility of a novel and sensitive technique, which has been established to quantitate amino acids in terrestrial crust samples directly without derivatization using volatile ion-pairing liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry equipped with an electrospray ionization source.
g Learning - While the space shuttle fleet continues its countdown to retirement, Kennedy Space Center teams are already at work to transition the Florida spaceport into the home of the Ares rocket family that promises to carry astronauts to the moon by the end of the next decade. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.

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