Astrobiology and SETI

SETI, Astrobiology and Red Dwarfs

August 8, 2016

If you’ve been following the KIC 8462852 story, you’ll want to be aware of Paul Carr’s Dream of the Open Channel blog, as well as his Wow! Signal Podcast, both of which make for absorbing conversation. In his latest blog post, Carr offers sensible advice about how to look at anomalies in our astronomical data. […]

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SETI: Detecting ‘Stellified’ Objects

July 26, 2016

When Nikolai Kardashev looked into the question of where to find advanced extraterrestrial civilizations, he argued that the obvious starting point would be in the vicinity of extreme astrophysics. Active galactic nuclei (AGN) come to mind, or even the centers of comparatively quiet galaxies like our own. Clément Vidal picked up the same point in […]

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Making Jupiter into a Star

July 25, 2016

The SETI concepts now called ‘Dysonian’ are to my mind some of the most exhilarating ideas in the field. Dysonian SETI gets its name from the ‘Dyson spheres’ and ‘Dyson swarms’ analyzed by Freeman Dyson in a 1960 paper. This is a technology that an advanced civilization might use to harvest the energy of its […]

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Bradley Schaefer: Further Thoughts on the Dimming of KIC 8462852

May 24, 2016

Is the anomalous star KIC 8462852 undergoing a long-term dimming or not? We’ve looked at Bradley Schaefer’s work on the star and the follow-ups disputing the idea from Michael Hippke and Daniel Angerhausen (NASA GSFC), with collaboration from Keivan Stassun and Michael Lund (both at Vanderbilt University) and LeHigh University’s Joshua Pepper. Dr. Schaefer (Louisiana […]

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A Kickstarter Campaign for KIC 8462852

May 23, 2016

If the star KIC 8462852 is on your mind — and the lively and continuing comments threads on the topic in these pages suggest that it is — you’ll want to know about a new campaign to support further study. ‘Tabby’s Star,’ as it is informally known (after Tabetha Boyajian, whose work at the Planet […]

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Perspectives on Cosmic Archaeology

May 3, 2016

I’ve always found the final factor in the Drake Equation to be the most telling. Trying to get a rough idea of how many other civilizations there might be in the galaxy, Drake looked at factors ranging from the rate of star formation to the fraction of planets suitable for life on which life actually […]

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Gravitational Lensing with Planets

April 26, 2016

As we’ve been talking about the Sun’s gravitational focus, it’s interesting to reflect on the history of its study. Albert Einstein’s thinking about gravitational lensing in astronomy was explicitly addressed in a 1936 paper, but it wasn’t until 1964 that Stanford’s Sydney Liebes produced the mathematics behind lensing at the largest scale, working with the […]

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Breakthrough Discuss: SETI in the Optical

April 21, 2016

At the Yuri’s Night party on Yuri Milner’s Palo Alto estate, I found myself thinking about a novel, Allen Steele’s Arkwright. Like Breakthrough Starshot, initial work on the starship in the book is funded by a wealthy man who wants to see a human future among the stars. The propulsion method is a beam-driven sail, […]

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Alpha Centauri, SETI and Detectability

April 20, 2016

Heading for the hotel lobby the first night of the Breakthrough Discuss meeting, I thought about a major theme of the Breakthrough Starshot initiative: Making things smaller. Robert Forward wrote about sails hundreds of kilometers in diameter, and vast lenses deep in the Solar System to collimate a laser beam that would drive them. But […]

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A Transit Signature for SETI?

April 4, 2016

David Kipping and Alex Teachey have a new paper out on the possibility of ‘cloaking’ a planetary signature. The researchers, both at Columbia University, make the case that any civilization anxious to conceal its existence — for whatever reason — would surely become aware that all stars lying along its ecliptic plane would see transits […]

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