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Spectral signatures of life on distant planets
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Dr. Lisa Kaltenegger
Friday, June 1, 2007, 7:30 pm at Seagrave Observatory


In a famous paper, Sagan analysed a spectrum of the Earth taken by the Galileo probe, searching for signatures of life. They concluded that the large amount of oxygen and the simultaneous presence of methane traces are suggestive of biology. In this talk we discuss biomarkers and focus on what makes a habitable planet, using Earth as our example. What can we see? How can we detect those faint planets? What happens to a planets around different stars? How do we find them? How do we pick our targets? From the first bacteria to dinosaurs to take-out, what can we find? We live in an exciting time when the detection of life's signatures on worlds orbiting other stars maybe achievable within a generation.
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RE: SETI
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The search for extraterrestrial life is set to become an around the clock activity.
The SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) plans to have 42 radio astronomy dishes up and running in northern California by the end 2007, which will enable it to scan the heavens for alien radio waves on a continuous basis.

"There are a number of groups around the world doing SETI research. They are listening for radio signals out there, but is not 24/7" - Scott Hubbard, who holds the Carl Sagan Chair for the Study Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute.

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The search for extra terrestrial intelligence (SETI) has been pursued sporadically since the 1960s. These searches usually use two methods; either large parts of the sky are examined with the hope of picking up some signal that is of unnatural origin, or specific stars are targeted—the radio spectrum emitted by the star and its surroundings are carefully examined. The first type of searching generates huge amounts of data—hence the birth of distributed computing—while the second type of search is essentially like trying to win lotto with a single ticket. What both search types have in common is that they deliberately look at parts of the spectrum that we do not use on Earth. There is a good reason for this: it is easier to listen for a specific sound in a silent room. However, it is quite possible that this limits the search to finding civilizations that are actively trying to say hello (at random) to the universe.

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Astronomers have proposed an improved method of searching for intelligent extraterrestrial life using instruments like one now under construction in Australia. The Low Frequency Demonstrator (LFD) of the Mileura Wide-Field Array (MWA), a facility for radio astronomy, theoretically could detect Earth-like civilizations around any of the 1,000 nearest stars.

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Intelligent life is likely abundant in the cosmos, and we will find evidence of it soon, according to one of the world's top experts on the ongoing search for extraterrestrial life.
Seth Shostak, the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, gave a pair of talks in Athens last week about what his organization does to search for alien life, why he believes it is out there, and what might happen when we find it.

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NASA and SETI Explorers Search for Planetary Evolution Clues on Earth

To go where few people have gone before, a team of expert scientists, mountain-climbers, and divers will explore the ecosystems of three high-altitude summit lakes to understand microbial life’s adaptation to these challenging environments.

Exploring new frontiers on Earth, the 15-member team will climb three giant volcanoes of the Andes and their summit lakes: Licancabur at 6004 m, Poquentica at 5850 m, and Aguas Calientes at 5950 m, in Bolivia and Chile. They will be going where the atmosphere is thin, ultraviolet radiation intense, and the temperatures cold, which make these environmental conditions potential analogues to ancient martian lakes. The High Lakes Project, funded by a grant from the NASA Astrobiology Institute to the SETI Institute, Mountain View, California, is a collaborative effort to investigate extreme lakes at the summit of high volcanoes and collect new knowledge about the biosphere of our own planet, the evolution of life and its adaptation to climate changes. The expedition is scheduled to run from Oct. 27 to Dec. 7.

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Scientists in Mountain View will continue their search for life on other planets despite NASA's proposal to severely cut back funding for missions that seek to find out if we're alone in the cosmos.
The SETI Institute announced formation Tuesday of the new Carl Sagan Centre for the Study of Life in the Universe, a coterie of 50 scientists dedicated to exploring possible life forms on other planets and moons. SETI, which stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is best-known for its radio telescopes in Shasta County that hunt for transmissions from outer space. By contrast, the Sagan centre researchers don't care if life forms are intelligent or not.

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"On Tuesday, October 17, the SETI Institute will unveil a new centre to study life in the universe and a fund-raising strategy to counter NASA's proposed budget cuts for astrobiology research. From 10 to 11 a.m. at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, a distinguished panel of institute trustees and staff will announce the formation of the Carl Sagan Centre for the Study of Life in the Universe. The centre's activities will focus on astrobiology and be dedicated to the memory of planetary scientist and astronomer Carl Sagan. The panel will explain a new emphasis on fundraising from private sources to offset a proposed 50 percent budget cut by NASA for astrobiology research."

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Major SETI Institute Announcement
Tuesday, October 17, 2006

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Cosmic Connexion
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Eurotrash goes intergalactic tonight when two naked television presenters host the first programme conceived for aliens and broadcast to a star located in the Big Dipper, 45 light years away.

Despite the English language title, the programme, Cosmic Connexion, as conceived by the channel Arte, assumes the aliens will have a working knowledge of German and French - the station's two working languages.
The TV show has been conceived as an idiot's guide to humankind, or close encounters of the nude kind. The hosts will explain how the human body is created - thus justifying their own nakedness - and will tell about the main elements of daily human life.

Cosmic Connexion will talk to sociologists, scientists and space experts, as well as explain to viewers - on earth and in space - about previous attempts to contact other life forms such as the gold and aluminium disc placed on board the Pioneer 10 probe launched in 1972 and last contacted in 2003.

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