Monday, November 30, 2009

Past climate of Mars and the Rio Scale for ETI detection

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Scientists recently used an innovative computer program to produce a more detailed global map of valley networks on Mars. The results are consistent with past climate scenarios that include precipitation and an ocean in the Martian north. See article.
g Life - Scientists recently inventoried an astonishing abundance of deep sea species that have never known sunlight. These organisms have managed to live in frigid depths of up to 5,000 meters below the ocean. The study may help astrobiologists understand how life could survive in oceans on other worlds. See article.
g Message - What are the chances that an alien signal has been sent our way just at the right moment to splash upon our antennas during that brief interval? If the extraterrestrials beam their broadcasts to the whole galaxy (or at least a big chunk of it), the chances are 100 percent. See article.
g Cosmicus - Astronomers studying pictures sent back by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), currently circling the Red Planet, say that an intriguing clump of depressions in the Martian soils could be the entries to an underground cave system. The underground refuges could be supporting microscopic life forms that were driven away from the surface when the planet lost its water, billions of years ago. In the future, as space agencies ponder manned explorations to the planet, these underground caverns could prove to be a wonderful refuge in which astronauts could take shelter from the harsh conditions on the surface of Mars. See article.
g Aftermath - A SETI detection will have important consequences for society. So at the International Astronautics Federation’s annual get-together in Rio de Janeiro a few years ago, Hungarian astronomer Ivan Almar and SETI Institute researcher Jill Tarter proposed the Rio Scale for ranking both the importance and credibility of claims that evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence has been found. See article.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Exoworld orbits in opposite direction of star and consequences of receiving a signal from the cosmos

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 - New research shows that an unusual mix of stars at the center of our galaxy might be the remnants of a dwarf galaxy that merged with the Milky Way long ago. The findings could help astrobiolgists understand how galaxies evolve and, ultimately, the processes behind solar system and planet formation. See article.
g Abodes - The exoplanet HAT-P-7b has been observed to have a very curious orbit. It either has a highly tilted orbit – passing almost over the poles of its parent star, HAT-P-7 - or a retrograde orbit; that is, orbiting in the opposite direction of its parent star. See article.
g Life - For astrobiologists, it is very important to distinguish between living and inert beings. See article.
g Message - The search for extraterrestrial visitation is motivated not only by the writings of other authors on the subject of interstellar probes, but also by the awareness of the progression of our own probe technology. Included in this awareness are Earth's advancements in communication technology, growing understanding of exobiology and ongoing research of new possibilities to enable travel across vast distances. See article.
g Cosmicus - How we define "exploration" may set the success or failure of NASA's future. See article.
g Aftermath - Book alert: In their November 2003 book “In Cosmic Company: The Search for Life in the Universe,” authors Seth Shostak and Alex Barnett ponder the possibility of alien life and the consequences of receiving a signal from the cosmos. They explain why scientists think sentient life might exist on other worlds, how we could discover it and what it might be like. Entertaining and informative, this hard cover book is lavishly illustrated. See reviews.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Extreme exoworlds and impact of advanced ETI on humanity

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Of the planets discovered beyond our solar system to date, here are five of the most extreme. See article.
g Intelligence - Astrobiology Magazine's climate blog, The Hot Zone, recently spoke with Professor Brigitte Nerlich about aspects of climate change related to human behavior. The future of life on Earth may truly be in the hands of humankind - yet our actions are sometimes hard to predict or understand. See article.
g Message - Some people sit in the tub, yell "Eureka", and come up with a brand new view of matter. Others can be riding a trolley home and at the sight of a clock initiate a whole new concept of time. Yet another more pedantic method is to follow government procedures to resolve riddles. Steven Dick and James Strick in their book, “The Living Universe - NASA and the development of Astrobiology”, narrate how this occurred for the new academic field of astrobiology. Though perhaps not as film-worthy as instantaneous flashes, the four decades of meetings, workshops and programs described therein show that this distinct academic area had an eventful and exciting coming of age.
g Cosmicus - Since 1995, astronomers have found more than 400 planets orbiting other stars. And yet not one of them has a formal name, other than their orginal scientific designation such as MOA-2008-BLG-310-L b, (a sub-Saturnian mass planet recently detected in the Galactic Bulge). How come? See article.
g Aftermath - If we hear from ET, not only can we expect his civilization to be an old one with a great time lag in correspondence, a SETI astronomer says. Could this limit the impact of extraterrestrial contact upon humanity? See article. Note: This article is from 2001.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Planet that rains rocks and naming exoworlds

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - On Earth, strange things, including frogs and fish, sometimes fall from the sky, but on a distant extrasolar planet, the weather could be even weirder: When a front moves in, small rocks rain down on the surface, a new study suggests. See article.
g Intelligence - Given the Great Silence, and knowing what we may be capable of in the future, we can start to make some fairly confident assumptions about the developmental characteristics of advanced civilizations, a Canadian futurist argues. See article.
g Message - A new paper argues that Fermi's paradox (or the "Great Silence" problem), not only arguably the oldest and crucial problem for the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence, but also a conundrum of profound scientific, philosophical and cultural importance. See paper.
g Cosmicus - A planet formation expert has decided he's not happy with the International Astronomical Union's insistence that exoplanets will be known solely by their "assigned scientific designation", and has come up with names for the 403 such bodies discovered to date. See article.
g Aftermath - Even if the public seems less than awestruck by the prospect that alien life is a bunch of microscopic bugs, astrobiologists say unequivocal discovery of microbial life beyond Earth will change human society in profound ways, some unfathomable today. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

New evidence for fossils in Martian meteorite and sending music to ETI

Happy Thanksgiving! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars - NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has contributed to the discovery of the youngest brown dwarf ever observed - a finding that, if confirmed, may solve an astronomical mystery about how these cosmic misfits are formed. See article.
g Abodes - Compelling new data that chemical and fossil evidence of ancient microbial life on Mars was carried to Earth in a Martian meteorite is being elevated to a higher plane by the same NASA team which made the initial discovery 13 years ago. See article.
g Life - Scientists have revealed new information about a period of time spanning three of Earth's largest mass extinctions. The study shows how different marine environments - from oceans to seas that once covered large portions of the continents - respond differently to agents of mass extinction. See article.
g Message - Put yourself in the situation of the aliens, out there somewhere in the galaxy. They surmise that Earth looks promising for the emergence of intelligent life one day, but they have no idea when. There would be little point in beaming radio messages in this direction for eons in the vague hope that one day radio technology would be developed here and someone would decide to tune in, says one astrobiologist. See article. Note: this article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - The U.S. Air Force has released new images of its experimental new X-37B space plane as the secretive mission's launch date next April draws near. See article.
g Aftermath - The structure of terrestrial music might provide clues to creating interstellar messages that could be understood by extraterrestrial intelligence, an American composer suggests. In the process, he suggests that music may provide a means of communicating "something of our consciousness that is essentially human, regardless of the civilization from which it emerges." See article. Note: This article is from 2002.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

First contact with a microbe and NASA/ESA plan joint Mars exploration

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Much of Earth's mineral wealth was deposited billions of years ago when chemical cycles on our planet were very different than today's. Recently, scientists used geochemical data from minerals to yield surprising information about conditions on the ancient Earth. See article.
g Life - For many years, paleobiological researchers interested in the history of biodiversity have focused on charting the many ups (evolutionary radiations) and downs (mass extinctions) that punctuate the history of life. Because the preserved record of marine (sea-dwelling) animals is unusually extensive in comparison, say, to that of terrestrial animals such as dinosaurs, it's been easier to accurately calibrate the diversity and extinction records of marine organisms. See article.
g Message - When scientists get together to talk about extraterrestrial life, they certainly don't imagine little green men. In fact, our first contact with life beyond our planet probably will involve a microbe. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Cosmicus - NASA and the European Space Agency have signed a statement of intent for the Mars Exploration Joint Initiative (MEJI), a proposed string of cooperative Martian lander and orbiter missions intended to prepare the way for a sample return. See article.
g Aftermath - Movie aliens often are like distant relatives: They resemble us in an unpleasant sort of way. This is hardly a surprise. Hollywood creates characters that audiences can identify with, and that’s why its aliens are so anthropomorphic (and why Donald Duck looks more like a human than a duck.) But appearances aside, cinema aliens have another implausible attribute: they’re nearly always at our level of technical sophistication. We frequently trade gunfire with them or chase them around in dogfights. This is silly, of course. Any beings capable of bridging the vast distances between the stars would be able to clean our clock when it comes to science and engineering. Visitors from other worlds — should any appear — would be enormously ahead of us from a technological viewpoint. See article. Note: This article is from 2000.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oceans show past/future of planet and could we understand ETI’s language?

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - A new study that reconstructed ocean temperatures from millions of years ago could provide new insight into how the Earth responds to climate change. See article.
g Life - A census of the ocean depths reveals hundreds of new species. See article.
g Message - Want to help SETI discover alien life? If you haven’t already done so, download the free SETI at Home software. Using Internet-connected computers, the program downloads and analyzes radio telescope data on your desktop when it is idle. The program has been so successful in plowing through data that other scientific researchers, especially in medicine, are adopting it to their fields. Click here for the program.
g Cosmicus - Scientists could begin garnering information on the origins of the universe in the coming months as the world's biggest particle collider starts moving to full power next year See article.
g Learning - Are we alone? That's the primary question incoming researchers will be asking as participants of the newly created Canadian Astrobiology Training Program. See article.
g Aftermath - If we encountered an intelligent species on another planet, could we understand them? In turn, could extrasolar species decipher one of our 8,000 terrestrial languages in use today? See article. Note: This article is from June 2004.


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Monday, November 23, 2009

Would ETI act in an alien manner and helping NASA explore Mars at your desktop

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Intelligence - It is wrong to think that if there are aliens out there, they necessarily have to act in an alien manner. See article.
g Message - George Dvorsky’s ongoing series on the Fermi Paradox, which appears on his Sentient Developments site, is drawn from a recent conference presentation about the implications of Fermi’s question. ‘Where are they?’ indeed, and what factors could explain our inability to find other sentient life forms? See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Learning - NASA and Microsoft have created the new “Be a Martian” Web site, which allows citizen scientists to participate in projects such as improving Martian maps and assisting Mars science teams. Now the public can help astrobiologists determine the past habitability of Mars. See article.
g Aftermath - A Penn State professor recently had the opportunity to visit the Vatican to participate in a conference one wouldn’t normally associate with the Catholic authority: a three-and-a-half-day discussion of extraterrestrial life. See article.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Active SETI and commercial travel to outer space routine by 2012

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 - Prevailing theoretical models attempting to explain the formation of the solar system have assumed it to be average in every way. Now a new study by Northwestern University astronomers, using recent data from the 300 exoplanets discovered orbiting other stars, turns that view on its head. See article.
g Abodes - The search for Earth-like life on other worlds should focus on solar systems with Jupiter-like planets, a University of Arizona scientist reports. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Message - Recent discussions within the SETI community have thoroughly explored the issue of whether people with access to radio telescopes should send powerful signals to alien civilizations without some process of prior international consultation. In particular, those exchanges have focused on the question of "Active SETI." See editorial.
g Cosmicus - Routine commercial travel to outer space may be the norm as soon as 2012, as the next generation of spacecraft — designed by private sector firms like Virgin Galactic, Orbital Sciences Corp., Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and others — transport adventure-seeking civilians into low-Earth orbit. See article.
g Aftermath - The search for extraterrestrial life grips the human imagination because it tells us about ourselves. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Terraforming Mars and is the Vatican ready to welcome ETI into the church?

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Astrobiology Magazine's climate blog, The Hot Zone, recently discussed how receding glaciers could have catastrophic consequences for Earth's climate. Increasing loss of glacial ice will lead to increasing water levels in the oceans. Ultimately, these changes could profoundly affect the biosphere. See article.
g Intelligence - According to a recent study by UCLA psychologists, looking at a photo, holding the hand or even just thinking of a loved one will reduce pain. See article.
g Message - What if we examined how to communicate with extraterrestrials from a telecommunication engineer’s point of view? That’s the approach of Brian McConnell’s book, “Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations.” Though the book has been out a few years now, it’s still worth a read if you haven’t already delved into it. For more about the book and an interview with McConnell, see article.
g Cosmicus - Here’s a neat Web site: The Terraforming Information pages, an exhaustive look at terraforming by one of the world's leading experts on terraforming. Highly recommended.
g Aftermath - Is the Vatican ready to welcome aliens into the church? According to Jesuit Father Jose Funes, Papal Astronomer and Director of the Vatican Observatory, "Christians should consider alien life as an 'extraterrestrial brother and a part of God's creation." See article.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

New way of finding exoplanets and history of SETI

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - A proposed space mission that aims to measure dark energy could also detect planets that current surveys are unable to find. See article.
g Life - New fossils unearthed in what is now the Sahara desert reveal a once-swampy world divided up among a half-dozen species of unusual and perhaps intelligent crocodiles. See article.
g Message - Want to get a sense of SETI’s history and varying projects? Jodrell Bank Observatory offers an easy to follow yet informative primer.
g Aftermath - Book alert: If you have been interested in scholarly theories concerning extraterrestrial intelligence but have not had the opportunity to read the books, journal articles and conference reports on the subject, this is the book for you. In “Extraterrestrials: Science and Alien Intelligence,” editor Edward Regis, Jr., science writer and associate professor of philosophy at Howard University, brings together the reflections of notable scientists and philosophers concerned with the existence and nature of ETs. One essay specifically discusses the philosophical and sociological impact of contact. See article. Note: The book was published in 1990.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

How planets migrate and the first thing an extraterrestrial civilization is likely to hear from Earth

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Astronomers have found that the extrasolar planet HAT-P-7b has a retrograde or highly tilted orbit. Studying such planets is important in understanding the diversity of planetary systems and assessing current models of how planets migrate. The findings could help astrobiologists in the search for habitable planets beyond our solar system. See article.
g Life - In both A&E’s recent remake of The Andromeda Strain, and the 1971 version of the Micheal Crichton novel, scientists are confronted with a microscopic invader, Andromeda, that has none of the trappings that we associated with life, but which is definitely alive. It grows, reproduces and evolves—all without the benefit of DNA, amino acids, water, or the complex carbon-based proteins that make all life as we know it tick. Instead, Andromeda appears to be crystalline in nature. Is such a lifeform possible? See article. Note: This article is from 2008.
g Message - Chirps and whistles of our planet's auroral kilometric radiation (AKR) might be the first thing an extraterrestrial civilization is likely to hear from Earth. In reality, they are the sounds that accompany the aurora. The European Space Agency's Cluster mission is showing scientists how to understand this emission and, in the future, search for alien worlds by listening for their sounds. See article.
g Learning - If you need a last minute Christmas idea, here it is: Model rocketry is a great way to get children interested in science and engineering. After buying that starter kit, head to the National Association of Rocketry’s outstanding collection of resources for getting started in the hobby and teaching it in school.
g Aftermath - As we look toward exploring other worlds, and perhaps even bringing samples back to Earth for testing, astrobiologists have to wonder: could there be alien pathogens in those samples that will wreak havoc on our world? See article. Note: This article is from 2003.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dramatically cooler early Earth and imagining an ecosystem on Alpha Centauri

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Features discovered in 3.4 billion-year-old rocks indicate that temperatures on early Earth may have been dramatically cooler than previously believed. The finding could have implications in understanding the conditions in which life first evolved on our planet. See article.
g Message - Among the most important SETI work is being done at Harvard University. The Harvard SETI home page discusses the Radio Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, The Arecibo Search for Early Hydrogen and Optical SETI.
g Cosmicus - Equipped with wearable AI systems and digital eyes that see what human eyes can’t, space explorers of the future could be not just astronauts, but “cyborg astrobiologists.” See article.
g Imagining - "Avatar", a film by former NASA Advisory Committee member James Cameron, will debut across the planet on 18 December. Widely hailed as "ground breaking" the film may well push the boundaries of what can be portrayed on the big screen. The film centers around humans mining precious materials on a world in the Alpha Centauri star system - and the inevitable conflict that arises with the local (sentient) inhabitants. The film delves into a wide range of issues that intersect with what NASA's Astrobiology Institute and Exobiology Programs have looked into in one way or another. See article.
g Aftermath - Quote of the Day: "This is the century for the discovery of extraterrestrial life. It is an incredibly exciting time." - Conway Morris

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Testing drills for Mars and doomsday film condemned

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Message - How did the SETI program come to be? For a timeline of the program’s history, see article.
g Cosmicus - NASA’s IceBite team will spend six weeks studying a place on Earth that resembles the Phoenix landing site on Mars. The place: a mile above sea level in Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys. The ultimate goal: to test ice-penetrating drills for a future mission to the Martian polar north. See article.
g Learning - A NASA scientist has condemned the doomsday film "2012" and launched a web site, "Ask an Astrobiologist," to quell the fears it is raising. See article.
g Aftermath - The Catholic church is comfortable with the idea of aliens. Good news for those who believe in compassion for extra-terrestrials. See article.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Water on the Moon and how SETI works

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Preliminary data from NASA’s LCROSS mission indicates that water ice is present in a permanently shadowed lunar crater. LCROSS crashed into the Cabeus crater on Oct. 9, creating a plume of material. Water ice could be a vital resource for future human explorers. See article.
g Message - Just exactly how does SETI work? See primer.
g Cosmicus - Astronomers are using SDI technology to give us better, deeper views of the universe. See article.
g Aftermath - The next big discovery in science will be the proof that alien life exists — and it could come any day now. See article.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lithium as an indication of planetary systems and Catholicism acknowledges the possibility of ETI

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 - A census of 500 stars has successfully linked the 'lithium mystery' observed in our sun to the presence of planetary systems. The study shows that sun-like stars with planetary systems lack lithium, and could help astronomers identify more stars that host planets. See article.
g Abodes - Is there water on the Moon? The NASA LCROSS mission has determined the answer to be a resounding YES! See article.
g Message - There’s an intriguing set of four articles, each with a separate explanation of a different quantum phenomena, that when taken together form a mosaic needed to understand the final explanation of a proposed quantum astronomy experiment, possibly using the Allen Array Telescope and the narrow-band radio-wave detectors being build by the SETI Institute and the University of California, Berkeley. Here are the parts in the series: Part-I; Part-2; Part-3; and Part-4. Note: This series is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - With the shuttle program entering its final year of operation, engineers are readying Atlantis for launch Monday on a three-spacewalk mission to deliver 15 tons of spare parts and equipment to the International Space Station as a hedge against failures when the shuttle is no longer available for service calls. See article.
g Aftermath - The Catholic Church may have theological problems acknowledging some “miracles,” but not, it seems, the possibility of little green men. See editorial.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Stars masquerading as planets and would ETI understand our pictures?

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 - Astrophysicists at the University of Warwick and Kiel University have discovered two Earth-sized bodies with oxygen rich atmospheres - however there is a bit of a disappointing snag for anyone looking for a potential home for alien life, or even a future home for ourselves, as they are not planets but are actually two unusual white dwarf stars. See article.
g Abodes - Astrobiology Magazine's climate blog, The Hot Zone, recently spoke with Dr. Marty Mlynczak of NASA's Langley Research Center about the limitations of the technology we have on hand to measure climate change. Some of the things we can't measure could be important in understanding the links between climate and habitability. See article.
g Message - A picture is worth a thousand words, especially if you're trying to get your point across to someone who doesn't speak your language. At least that has been the assumption of many proposals for communicating with extraterrestrials; in a recent image beamed into outer space, the world’s largest radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, images of a human being, the double helix of DNA and our solar system were included. But would pictures necessarily be understood at interstellar distances? See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Cosmicus - Scientists and curiosity seekers who want to know what a partially or completely cloaked object would look like in real life can now get their wish -- virtually. A team of researchers has created a new visualization tool that can render a room containing such an object, showing the visual effects of such a cloaking mechanism and its imperfections. See article.
g Aftermath - Quote of the Day: "The possibility of intelligent life beyond Earth … . Few important subjects are so data-poor, so subject to unwarranted and biased extrapolations - and so caught up in mankind's ultimate destiny - as is this one." — David Brin

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Testing ground for the future human exploration of other worlds and decoding ETI’s messages

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Life - We know there's life in the universe. We see it all around us here on Earth. But is there life anywhere else? By studying the extremes that life can take here on Earth, scientists are learning just how hardy and adaptable life can really be. And if you consider other ways that life might function, the options open up considerably. See article.
g Message - How will we decode any message from ET? For some speculation and a discussion of the inherent difficulties, see article and Part II. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Cosmicus - Scientists from NASA and the Canadian Space Agency have been using Pavilion Lake as a testing ground for the future human exploration of other worlds. See article.
g Aftermath - The Pontifical Academy of Science has concluded a five-day study week devoted to the emerging field of astrobiology, the scientific study of extraterrestrial life. See article.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why wet and warm Mars went dry and cold and Vatican presents summary of its first astrobiology conference

Why wet and warm Mars went dry and cold and Vatican presents summary of its first astrobiology conference
Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Some scientists believe that a relatively wet and warm ancient Mars may have been a second location for life. However, Mars did not end up as a planet filled with the multitude of life we see on Earth. NASA's new Mars orbiter, MAVEN, may help astrobiologists understand why. See article.
g Message - A team of American scientists note that recent astrophysical discoveries suggest that we should find ourselves in the midst of one or more extraterrestrial civilizations. Moreover, they argue it is a mistake to reject all UFO reports since some evidence for the theoretically predicted extraterrestrial visitors might just be found there. See article. Note: This article is from 2005.
g Learning - An excellent collection of books about SETI, including some for elementary and middle school children, appears online here. These would make some great holiday gifts.
g Aftermath - Questions about extra-terrestrial life are "very interesting and deserve serious consideration" the Vatican said yesterday, as one of its officials presented a summary of its first conference on astrobiology. See article.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Phoenix lander covered in frost and Carl Sagan’s impact on astrobiology

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Message - The search for extraterrestrial life need not be limited to the government or scientists. Don’t believe it? Then check out this Web site “Amateur SETI: Project BAMBI (Bob and Mike’s Big Investment)”, which describes the design and construction of a 4 GHz amateur radio telescope dedicated to SETI.
g Cosmicus - NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured images of the Phoenix lander shrouded in dry-ice frost on Mars. Phoenix has been inactive since the completion of its mission in November 2008. Early next year, scientists will try to contact the lander to see if it is still able to communicate. See article.
g Learning - Carl Sagan's life and work were monumental in astronomy and public outreach, and he had a profound influence on many people. See article.
g Aftermath - Search for Life in the Universe: In this two-part essay, Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Neil deGrasse Tyson, reflects on the scientific and cultural implications of finding life elsewhere in the cosmos. Read Part I. Read Part II. Note: This article is from 2003.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Man-made spacecraft near interstellar space and the ethics of contacting ETI

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 - Stellar astronomy researchers say they’ve witnessed a never-before-seen type of supernova. See article.
g Message - Is it even ethical for us to contact alien life? See article. Note: This article is a few years old.
g Cosmicus - The Voyager spacecraft are now in the outermost layer of the heliosphere, traveling toward interstellar space – the first man-made spacecraft to travel such a vast distance from Earth. See article.
g Aftermath - Would dutiful American citizens trust the government to handle first contact with extraterrestrials and rush to get information to the public? See article. Note: This article is from 1999.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Uracil reproduced in lab and the Vatican discusses meeting ETI

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Life - NASA scientists have reproduced uracil, a key component of the hereditary material, RNA. The uracil was created by exposing an ice sample containing the molecule pyrimidine to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions. The research may help astrobiologists understand how molecules for the origin of life were first made. See article.
g Message - What are our friends south of the equator doing in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence? After all, the Northern Hemisphere only covers half of the galaxy. See article.
g Learning - One of the biggest questions you will hear about the universe is if there is life on other worlds. I suppose it depends on your definition of life. Known as “exobiology,” the study has become a serious sub-field of both astronomy and biology. What is most unique about the study is, to date, the subject remains completely hypothetical. There may not even be anything to study. See article.
g Aftermath - The Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences is holding its first major conference on astrobiology, the new science that seeks to find life elsewhere in the cosmos and to understand how it began on Earth. Convened on private Vatican grounds in the elegant Casina Pio IV, formerly the pope's villa, the unlikely gathering of prominent scientists and religious leaders shows that some of the most tradition-bound faiths are seriously contemplating the possibility that life exists in myriad forms beyond this planet. Astrobiology has arrived, and religious and social institutions - even the Vatican - are taking note. See article.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Solar system with unstable planetary orbits discovered and the science of xenology

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 - NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered a young star where young planets jostle about like unsettled children. The system may be similar to our own solar system before our planets settled into their familiar orbits. See article.
g Message - Science fiction author David Brin offers a copy of his 1983 article “Xenology: The Science of Asking Who’s Out There”. While two decades old, the information is still relevant and offers a good overview of fundamental astrobiological questions. See article.
g Learning - A team of scientists has debunked six myths about the world supposedly ending in 2012 according to an ancient Mayan prophecy. See article.
g Aftermath - Before it was published, Richard Zare suspected that the paper proposing that a meteorite from Mars once hosted alien life would be a media sensation. It was. What Zare didn't expect was the course that the scientific debate has taken. He thought that the resulting discourse would be skeptical and opinionated, but also highly reasoned and dispassionate. But because of the high stakes ­ nothing less than the first discovery of alien life ­ and the intensity of the media spotlight, the scientific interchange has proven to be highly emotional and highly disruptive, he said. See paper. Note: This article is from 1997.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Social impact humanity will have upon discovering life elsewhere and arguments for and against manned space exploration

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Recently, Astrobiology Magazine's climate blog, The Hot Zone, spoke with Anastasia Romanou, associate research scientist at NASA GISS, about the need for precise local measurements of climate phenomena. Local measurements can provide information about the real impacts of climate change. See article.
g Message - Looking for a club to join? Try The SETI League. The league’s site has a lot of great information for everyone from the beginner to accomplished technogeek.
g Cosmicus - Two scientists, writing exclusively for Physics World, present their arguments for and against manned or robotic space missions.
g Aftermath - With humanity now on the verge of being capable to leave its home world, Earth, scientists have begun to wrestle with the consequences of this next great journey; of the social impact humanity will have upon discovering life elsewhere, be it fossil, bacterial or an intelligent civilization. See article. Note: This article is from 1999.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Sun-like stars best for finding ETI and first contact’s theological implications

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 - The most probable place to find intelligent life in the galaxy is around stars very similar to our sun, a new study has found. See article.
g Message - If we are not alone in the Universe, why have we never picked up signals from an extraterrestrial civilization? Known as the Fermi paradox after physicist Enrico Fermi, who first posed the question, this long-standing puzzle remains one of the strongest arguments against the existence of intelligent aliens. But two physicists say they have come up with a solution. They suggest a way in which aliens could send messages to each other across space that not only disguises their locations but also makes it impossible for a casual observer to even distinguish the messages from background noise. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - Russian space chiefs are considering plans for a manned spacecraft with a nuclear powerplant aboard, according to reports. Indications are that the nuclear kit would provide electrical power rather than being used directly for propulsion. See article.
g Learning - Teaching kids science can be both a rewarding and fun experience. Science plays and important and crucial role in the education of the newest generation. See article.
g Aftermath - Book alert: “Many Worlds: The New Universe, Extraterrestrial Life, and the Theological Implications, by Steven J. Dick (editor), is a provocative collection examining science's impact on theology. Based on a 1998 conference sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, this collection of essays opens with the observation that the Copernican revolution looks insignificant when compared to the discoveries made about the earth and the universe in the last century: we now know, for example, that the universe is billions (not thousands) of light-years big; that it is expanding, not static; that our galaxy is just one of many, not the entirety of the universe. But from looking at modern theology, you wouldn't think anything had changed. The contributors (who include physicists, philosophers, historians of science, and theologians) suggest that cosmological advances might reshape the very fundamentals of theology. See reviews.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

New data about how rocky planets form and long delays in verifying possible ETI signals

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - On its final flyby of Mercury, NASA's Messenger spacecraft has captured images of never before seen regions of the planet. Messenger is providing new scientific findings about the closest planet to the sun, and teaching astrobiologists about how rocky planets form and evolve. See article.
g Intelligence - Claude Levi-Strauss, the French philosopher widely considered the father of modern anthropology because of his then-revolutionary conclusion that so-called primitive societies did not differ greatly intellectually from modern ones, died Friday at his home in Paris from natural causes. See article.
g Message - Most SETI programs scan the sky looking for strong radio signals. Any signals that are deemed interesting are put on a list for follow-up observations weeks, months — even years later. Long delays in verification of potential ET signals sometimes generate tantalizing, but ultimately frustrating, stories. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - By travelling to the outer solar system, the two Voyager spacecraft allowed us to see amazing details of far-distant planets and moons. See article.
g Aftermath - Contrary to common expectations, evidence of extraterrestrials is likely bad (though valuable) news, one thinker on astrobiology says. In fact, the easier it was for life to evolve to our stage, the bleaker our future chances probably are. See article. Note: This article is from 1998.


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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

How Darwin can help us find little green men and the first optical frequency comb

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Life - Can Darwin help us find little green men? See article.
g Message - Just as our own robots reach out beyond the solar system, searching for life elsewhere may well involve hailing some kind of space artifact in our own neighborhood. At least one style of life search is about looking for the technological evidence of life, rather than its wet biology. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - Scientists have built the first optical frequency comb — a tool for precisely measuring different frequencies of visible light—that actually looks like a comb. See article.
g Aftermath - Book alert: In “Cosmic Company,” Seth Shostak and Alex Barnett ponder the possibility of aliens visiting the Earth, as well as the consequences of receiving a signal from the cosmos proving we're neither alone, nor the most intelligent life forms. They explain why scientists think life might exist on other worlds, and how we might contact it. Shostak and Barnett, experienced writers of popular astronomy, provide an accessible overview of the science and technology behind the search for life in the universe. See reviews.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Ultra-primitive dust and a sign of alien intelligence

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 - Dust samples collected by high-flying aircraft in the upper atmosphere have yielded an unexpectedly rich trove of relicts from the ancient cosmos, report scientists from the Carnegie Institution. The stratospheric dust includes minute grains that likely formed inside stars that lived and died long before the birth of our sun, as well as material from molecular clouds in interstellar space. This "ultra-primitive" material likely wafted into the atmosphere after the Earth passed through the trail of an Earth-crossing comet in 2003, giving scientists a rare opportunity to study cometary dust in the laboratory. See article.
g Message - What would be a sign of alien intelligence? Forget mathematics — try a simple, pure-tone radio signal. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - Some scientists believe that we are on the brink of big changes in planetary exploration. Future robotic explorers might be nothing like what we see today, and the new technologies could have benefits for astrobiologists. See article.
g Aftermath - Astronomers are searching hard for that first interstellar phone-call from ET. But when it happens, how will we react? Will it be a major trauma for humankind, or a new beginning? See article.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

The Great Oxidation Event and how SETI knows it’s received a real signal

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Scientists widely accept that the Earth's atmosphere underwent a dramatic rise in oxygen 2.4 billion years ago, which ultimately paved the way for complex life on our planet. New research has helped solve some important questions surrounding this “Great Oxidation Event.” See article.
g Message - Picture Jodie Foster, her eyes closed and a mildly bored look on her face. She’s wearing earphones and listening to the dull roar of the cosmos. Now imagine Jodie 20 seconds later, when she hears something sounding like an unpleasant accident in the Boston Pops’ percussion section. Jodie knows she’s scored big: The aliens are on the air. Still, how can she be sure she’s picked up intelligence, and not just the cosmic gurgle of a completely natural object? How can she know she’s not merely harkening to the ticking beat of a pulsar, the whoosh of a quasar, or perhaps the lasing bray of a molecular gas cloud? See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - Chemists have developed a technology to rapidly assess the presence of microbial life on spacecraft. The method will help in decontaminating spacecraft before launch, and could have medical and pharmaceutical uses on Earth. See article.
g Aftermath - The recent Hollywood movie “War of the Worlds” by Steven Spielberg garnered much attention, but it was nothing like that accorded the 1938 radio version of H.G. Wells' novel. The extent of the panic that broadcast caused is still debated. So what really happened that night? See article.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Mysterious haze at galaxy’s center and ‘Extraterrestrial Intelligence’

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 the latest episode of their continuing efforts to embrace and understand the dark side of creation, astronomers sifting data from a new satellite say they have discerned the existence of a mysterious haze of high-energy particles surrounding the center of the Milky Way galaxy. See article.
g Abodes - Three astronomers, following in the footsteps of no less illustrious a predecessor than Galileo, have discovered a new ring around the planet Saturn. See article.
g Message - When does asking the right questions tell more than necessarily knowing the right answers? Perhaps when crossing the fertile boundary between biology and astronomy. See article.
g Cosmicus - European Space Agency leaders appear to be closing in on a solution for a Mars lander initiative that would reconcile technological and science goals with available budgets. See article.
g Aftermath - Book alert: Science fiction writers have given us many fine novels contemplating humankind's first contact with intelligent extraterrestrials. But our nonfiction world has not thought much about what to do if we are actually faced with this situation. Jean Heidmann, chief astronomer at the Paris Observatory (and self-styled bioastronomer), offers “Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” a book on the subject that is at once serious and fun. Heidmann's obvious joy in raw speculation - all of it grounded in real science - is contagious. If aliens send us a message from many light years away, for example, how should we respond? Heidmann reviews the protocols established in the SETI Declaration and then offers his own suggestion: Send them the entire contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. See reviews.

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