Astrobiology and SETI

Focus on Interstellar Prebiotic Chemistry

June 14, 2017

400 light years away in a star-forming region called Rho Ophiuchi there is an interesting stellar system in the making. Catalogued as IRAS 16293-2422, what we have here is a triple protostar system — a binary separated by 47 AU and a third star at 750 AU. All three have masses similar to the Sun, […]

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New Dip for Boyajian’s Star

May 19, 2017

Twitter action has been fast and furious with this morning’s news of the first clear dip in light from Boyajian’s Star (KIC 8462852) since the Kepler data. #TabbysStar IS DIPPING! OBSERVE!! @NASAKepler @LCO_Global @keckobservatory @AAVSO @nexssinfo @NASA @NASAHubble @Astro_Wright @BerkeleySETI — Tabetha Boyajian (@tsboyajian) May 19, 2017 I’m on the road most of today and […]

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A ‘Census’ for Civilizations

May 17, 2017

We’ve been talking about the Colossus project, and the possibility that this huge (though remarkably lightweight) instrument could detect the waste heat of extraterrestrial civilizations. But what are the chances of this, if we work out the numbers based on the calculations the Colossus team is working with? After all, Frank Drake put together his […]

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Colossus and SETI: Searching for Heat Signatures

May 16, 2017

Yesterday we looked at the PLANETS telescope, now under construction on the Haleakala volcano on the island of Maui. What will become the world’s largest off-axis telescope is considered a pathfinder, part of the progression of instruments that will take us through the array of sixteen 5-meter mirrors that will be called ExoLife Finder, itself […]

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Breakthrough Listen Data Becoming Available

April 24, 2017

Andrew Siemion (Berkeley SETI Research Center) presented results from the first year of the Breakthrough Listen initiative last Thursday at the Breakthrough Discuss meetings in Palo Alto. The data can be acquired here, with the caveat that file sizes can be gigantic and the data formats demand specialized software. Background information and details are available […]

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The Challenges of Przybylski’s Star

March 28, 2017

About 370 light years away in the constellation Centaurus is a variable star whose spectrum continues to raise eyebrows. The star is laced with oddball elements like europium, gadolinium, terbium and holmium. Moreover, while iron and nickel appear in unusually low abundances, we get short-lived ultra-heavy elements, actinides like actinium, plutonium, americium and einsteinium. Hence […]

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Fast Radio Bursts: Signature of Distant Technology?

March 13, 2017

We have a lot to learn about Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), a reminder that the first of these, the so-called Lorimer Burst (FRB 010724) was detected only a decade ago. Since then we’ve found 16 others, all thought to be at cosmological distances. The 2015 detection of FRB 150418, at first thought to have left […]

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Agricultural Resources Beyond the Earth

February 3, 2017

Gaining a human foothold on another world — Mars is the obvious first case, but we can assume there will be others — will require a search for resources to support the young colony. In today’s essay, Ioannis Kokkinidis looks at our needs in terms of agriculture, whether on a planetary surface or a space-borne […]

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Virtual Von Neumann Probes using Self Amplification and Replication of Electromagnetic Signals through Natural Stellar Processes

January 30, 2017

Is it possible to use natural phenomena to boost signals to the stars? In the essay below, Bill St. Arnaud takes a look at the possibilities, noting that civilizations that chose to broadcast information might select a method that mimics by electromagnetic means what the classic von Neumann probe would achieve with physical probes. St. […]

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A New Context for Complex Life

January 18, 2017

We normally think of the appearance of oxygen on Earth in terms of a ‘great oxygenation event,’ sometimes referred to as the ‘oxygen catastrophe’ or ‘great oxidation.’ Here oxygen begins to emerge in the atmosphere about 2.3 billion years ago as oceanic cyanobacteria produce oxygen by photosynthesis. The actual oxygenation event would be the point […]

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