Astrobiology: April 2011 Archives

Budget crunch mothballs telescopes built to search for alien signals, Scientific American

"The hunt for extraterrestrial life just lost one of its best tools. The Allen Telescope Array (ATA), a field of radio dishes in rural northern California built to seek out transmissions from distant alien civilizations, has been shuttered, at least temporarily, as its operators scramble to find a way to continue to fund it. In an April 22 letter to donors, Tom Pierson, CEO of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., explained that the ATA has been put into "hibernation," meaning that "starting this week, the equipment is unavailable for normal observations and is being maintained in a safe state by a significantly reduced staff." The ATA is a partnership between the SETI Institute, which is responsible for building the telescope array, and the University of California, Berkeley, which is responsible for operating it."

NASA Spacecraft Reveals Dramatic Changes In Mars' Atmosphere

"NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has discovered the total amount of atmosphere on Mars changes dramatically as the tilt of the planet's axis varies. This process can affect the stability of liquid water if it exists on the Martian surface and increase the frequency and severity of Martian dust storms. Researchers using MRO's ground-penetrating radar identified a large, buried deposit of frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice, at the Red Planet's south pole. The scientists suspect that much of this carbon dioxide enters the planet's atmosphere and swells the atmosphere's mass when Mars' tilt increases."

"This was filmed between 4th and 11th April 2011. I had the pleasure of visiting El Teide. Spain's highest mountain @(3715m) is one of the best places in the world to photograph the stars and is also the location of Teide Observatories, considered to be one of the world's best observatories." More

Alien Life on Earth

Astrobiologists Discover Strange Benthic Microbial Mats in Antarctica

"Photosynthetic microbial mats forming large conical structures up to half a meter tall have been discovered by astrobiologists in Lake Untersee, Antarctica. This research is described in a forthcoming article in the journal Geobiology. During the expedition, three members of the field team, Dale Andersen (SETI Institute), Ian Hawes (University of Canterbury), and Chris McKay (NASA ARC) explored the lake beneath its 3 meter thick ice-cover and discovered the large conical structures that dominate the under-ice landscape."

"Dr. Blumberg's family has requested that memorial gifts be sent to the American Philosophical Society for the Baruch S. Blumberg Fund for the Lewis and Clark Grants for Exploration and Field Research. He established the Lewis and Clark Grants in 2004 (during the bicentennial year of their epic journey) to assist younger scientists and scholars with projects at a critical time in their careers. "I believe that a passion for exploration is deeply rooted in the American character, and it is regrettable that funding for field studies is so difficult to obtain," he said. Including this year's projected grants, the Lewis and Clark program will have supported more than 250 emerging scientists and scholars since its founding. Funeral services: Sunday, April 10, 2:00 p.m. at the Society Hill Synagogue (on Spruce between 4th and 5th), Philadelphia. Reception to follow in Benjamin Franklin Hall, 427 Chestnut Street."

Keith's note: I learned with profound sadness last night that Baruch Blumberg died suddenly yesterday. He was in a small meeting focused upon how to move humanity off this world onto others. His passing was swift - and true to form he was enthused and learning up until his last breath.

Barry was one of those people you only meet once in a lifetime. He was truly a transcendent person - as humble as he was accomplished. Barry was a true Renaissance man in every sense - one who I was deeply honored to call a friend. And he counted many, many people among his friends.

I spent more than one dinner with him, talking about biochemistry, cattle ranching, rock climbing in Wales when he was in his 60s - he even visited Devon Island at an age when most folks have given up travelling altogether.

Barry was a Nobel Laureate and was the first director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. NASA has never enticed anyone finer to join its ranks. Barry's choice for NAI went vastly beyond the norm - and Dan Goldin was the one who made that choice. Goldin entered into another realm of inspiration when he picked Barry to run NAI (Barry had a habit of doing that to people) and that decision will affect the course of Astrobiology for decades to come.

I managed to reach Dan Goldin on Barry's passing. He told me "The world has lost a great man. Barry saved lives through his research on the Hepatitis B virus. He also inspired a whole generation of people world wide through his work in building the NASA Astrobiology Institute. On a personal level, he improved my life through his friendship. Our planet is an improved place as a result of Barry's few short days in residence."

Sean O'Keefe told me this morning that Blumberg "impressed me as a man whose humility was only surpassed by his capacity to inspire a new generation of scientists to pursue the human passion to want to learn from everything around us. He truly was a remarkable man."

NASA is placing the work of another Nobel Laureate (AMS) on-orbit in a few weeks. Maybe something reminiscent of Barry Blumberg could be placed on it ... it would be fitting since Barry truly did know something about everything and yet still sought to learn more up until his last moments on this planet.

Ad Astra, Barry.

- Astrobiology at T+5 Years, Baruch S. Blumberg and Keith Cowing, Ad Astra Magazine
- Web of Stories - Baruch Blumberg - A field trip to Devon Island (video)


Loading

 



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Astrobiology category from April 2011.

Astrobiology: March 2011 is the previous archive.

Astrobiology: May 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.