Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Determining if alien rock layers were formed by living creatures and should we reply to 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 - Astronomers from SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research and Utrecht University have found blurred oxygen signatures in the X-rays from a neutron star that 'eats' a white dwarf. For the first time the effects of extreme gravity are revealed by oxygen instead of iron atoms. See article.
g Abodes - For the first time, astronomers have been able to directly follow the motion of an exoplanet as it moves to the other side of its host star. The study is helping astronomers perfect techniques that will help in the search for habitable extrasolar planets. See article.
g Life - The first observations of extraterrestrial environments will most likely be in the form of digital images. Given an image of a rock that contains layered structures, is it possible to determine whether the layers were created by life (biogenic)? While conclusive judgments about biogenicity are unlikely to be made solely on the basis of image features, an initial assessment of the importance of a given sample can inform decisions about follow-up searches for other types of possible biosignatures (e.g., isotopic or chemical analysis). See article.
g Message - When talk turns to SETI, there's one question that's as common as catfish: "We're not broadcasting to the aliens; so what makes you think they'll be broadcasting to us?" See article. Note: This article is from 2006.
g Learning - "Looking for Life in the Universe" by Ellen Jackson and photographer Nic Bishop introduces readers to Dr. Jill Tarter, the SETI Institute’s Director of SETI Research, and her thrilling, rigorous, and awe-inspiring work as a scientist searching for life beyond Earth. When children consider careers in science and technology, the pathway to such careers is not always clear. Delightfully, "Looking for Life in the Universe" is more than Jill’s scientific work; it goes back to her childhood and shows how she became an engineer and scientist. This book is part of a series from Houghton Mifflin that focuses on working scientists, and a winner of the 2002 National Science Teachers Association Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children. (Hardback: Houghton Mifflin, 64 pages, 2002).
g Aftermath - As the search for extraterrestrial intelligence enters a new phase, with the recent start of observations for radio signals from other worlds with the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array, the international scientific community has begun preparing all the more earnestly for the cascade of events that would follow the detection of an alien civilization. Among the most important questions humankind will ponder on that day is whether we should reply, and if so, what we should say. See article. Note: This article is from 2008.

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