Planetary Protection Ensuring We Dont Bring Back Critters from Space
Planetary protection is a two-way street. Not just to we wish to keep possible extraterrestrial microbes from reaching Earth when our space probes return home, but we also need to ensure we dont bring organisms into space or to other planets where they may compromise scientific research results. The United Nations Outer Space Treaty, which have been in place since 1967 and signed by greater than 90 countries, outlines some specific principles to lead space exploration, including, States shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies.
SETI Institute scientist and previous planetary protection officer for NASA, John Rummel is quoted in Endgadget as not particularly concerned:
“In my opinion, there’s a reasonable possibility that nothing lets do with a sample return done robotically would bring back anything that’s alive,” he said.
Rummel argues that any microorganisms hitching a ride from Mars aboard a fabric sample can be woefully ill-equipped to address the pains of interplanetary flight. “WE DO NOT know what those organisms require, so the danger that we get lucky and convey them back alive is small.”
That said, Rummel acknowledges the price in assuming the worst. “The National Research Council and Space Studies Board have always maintained that we are going to contain [returned samples] as though they’re probably the most hazardous thing on the earth until we prove that it’s safe,” he continued. “THERE IS NOT ANY upside in cutting corners.”
Extraterrestrial life, microbial or otherwise, has not yet been discovered. However, with the invention of increasingly exoplanets with the potential of having the capacity to host life, together with moons equivalent to Titan and Enceladus, planetary protection will stay an issue of importance.
Congratulations to SETI Institute Fellow and Director of Education Edna DeVore
Edna DeVore, who’s a SETI Institute Fellow and Director of Education was named Fellow of the yankee Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). AAAS awarded this fellowship in recognition of Ednas contributions to astronomy education, and to the pro communities working to extend appreciation for and understanding of the universe. Congratulations Edna!
- SETI.org: SETI Institute Fellow, Edna DeVore, Named Fellow of the yank Association for the Advancement of Science
Drones on Mars
The SETI Institute has teamed up with The Mars Institute, FYBR Solutions, Inc. and the NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) to analyze and develop an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone technologies and applications for future exploration on Mars.
Devon Island within the Canadian arctic is regarded as one of the vital Mars-like places on Earth, and it’s the site of the NASA HMP. Pascal Lee, SETI Institute scientist and director of the NASA HMP, conducts much of his research on Devon Island. He notes:
Weve been investigating using robotic aircraft for Mars exploration at the HMP since 1998. This new partnership with FYBR will expand our investigation of the big variety of technologies and applications for UAVs on Mars.
This new partnership will take care of operational strategies and flight system requirements for route planning, mapping and exploring hard-to-access locations on Mars.
- SETI.org: NASA Haughton-Mars Project New Partnership on Mars Drone Applications Research
- Popular Mechanics: NASA Heads to the Arctic to Design Drones that may Fly on Mars
- Executive Biz: FYBR-Mars Institute-SETI Team to Work with NASA on Mars Drone R&D
- Aero-News: NASA Developing Drone for Mars within the Arctic
- Extreme Tech: NASA Plans to Develop Mars Drone at Arctic Research Base
Hart District Airborne Astronomy Ambassador Science Teachers Fly on NASAs SOFIA
The Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA) program helps highschool science teachers bring astronomy into their classrooms. Through webinars, workshops and online learning modules, the academics are prepared to fly on NASAs Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). The SOFIA flight week is an immersive experience at NASAs research facility in Palmdale, Calif. Following training and flight week, the AAA teachers bring related science curricula to their classrooms. AAA evaluators measure impact on student learning and STEM engagement because of this new science curriculum that emphasizes real-world science.
Teachers from Californias Hart District were among individuals who participated in flights on SOFIA during October. Hart Highschool science teacher Judy Jennings said, “This is, basically, a playground for science teachers. I’m running around looking to get as much information as I WILL. I’VE questions that scholars have asked me to invite astronomers, scientists, engineers. So, I’m looking to collect those answers to relay to my students.”
- SETI.org: SETI Institute Announces 2017 and 2018 Educators for the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors Program Aboard NASAs SOFIA Flying Observatory
- KABC: SoCal Science Teachers Take Rare NASA Trip
The World Didnt End Finally Nibiru/Planet X Fail
Speculation that the sector will come to a catastrophic end appear to circulate frequently. Within the most up-to-date instance, Earth and a rumored planet at the fringes of the solar system, Nibiru or Planet X, were to have collided on November 19. Obviously, that didnt happen. But SETI Institute Senior Astronomer and host of the radio program and podcast Big Picture Science,Seth Shostak, thought it was worth discussing with NASA scientist David Morrison, who detailed why this scenario wouldn’t come to pass.
- SETI.org: Big Picture Science Radio Show Skeptic Check: Nibiru (Again!)
- The Washington Post: Please Stop Annoying This NASA Scientist along with your Ridiculous Planet X Doomsday Theories
- New Zealand Herald: Conspiracy Theorists Claim Mysterious Planet Nibiru Will Trigger Apocalyptic Earthquakes
- International Business Times: NASA Man Rejects Nibiru as Hoax but Assesses Possible Damage
- The Indian Express: NASA Scientist Debunks Doomsday Rumours Over Mysterious Planet Nibiru
- NewsHub: NASA Scientist Debunks Popular Nibiru Conspiracy
- Express: Nibiru Doom NASA and SETI Scientists Finally Break Silence About Planet X Threat
- RT: No Evidence Whatsoever That Nibiru is Coming to Kill Us Says NASA Scientist
- Daily Mail: Will the sector End on Sunday? Conspiracy Theorists Claim Mysterious Planet Nibiru Will Trigger Apocalyptic Earthquakes
- The Christian Post: NASA Scientist Shoots Down Nibiru, Planet X Theory that the arena is Ending Soon
- International Business Times: The World Didnt End on November 19; Is it Because Nibiru Doesnt Exist?
Should We Be Sending Messages to Extraterrestrials?
Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), often referred to as active SETI, is an ongoing topic of discussion. Former SETI Institute researcher Doug Vakoch now heads a gaggle referred to as METI International which has just sent a message to a close-by star system that can have an Earth-like planet, GJ 273 or Luytens Star. The message included some music in addition to tutorials about geometry and using binary numbers. SETI Institute Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak recently wrote in regards to the event for NBC News, noting that obtaining a response from potential Luytenians might be an extended shot, but that here on Earth, there’ll be quite a few discussion.
- NBC News: We Just Beamed a Signal at Space Aliens. Was That a Bad Idea?
- VC Star: California Group Serenades Aliens with Techno-Pop
- San Jose Mercury News: How Well Serenade Aliens with Music
- Business Insider: Humans Just Tried to Make Contact with Aliens World Leading Scientists Let us know What Would Happen in the event that they Reply
- Smithsonian: In Try to Contact Intelligent Life, Group Sends Musical Signal Toward Planet GJ 273b
- Futurism: The Latest Interstellar Messages Could Receive an Extraterrestrial Response in 25 Years
- Wired: METIs First Message is a Music Lesson for Aliens
- Newsweek: What Happens if Aliens Are Real? Astronomers Have Protocol on How Humans Should React
The Hunt for all times on Ross 128 b
Earlier this year the red dwarf star Ross 128 caused a stir when strange signals were detected by the Arecibo radio telescope which later turned out to be transmissions from Earth satellites. Now an Earth-sized exoplanet, Ross 128 b, have been identified 11 light years from Earth, and orbiting throughout the habitable zone of Ross 128.
SETI Institute Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak told NBC News, Twenty years ago, no person would have believed that red dwarf stars the runts of the cosmos were good candidates for biology. But Ross 128 b is a minimum of theoretically habitable and whats more, its extremely nearby.
No life was detected on Ross 128 b as yet, but investigations will continue.
SETI Institute Activity Report October 2017
The SETI Institute is a world-class center of scientific research. But thats not all we do. Along with the Carl Sagan Center for Research, our Center for Education and Center for Outreach work to share knowledge and learning with all humanity. The middle for Education promotes STEM education that teaches and excites children, teens and educators, while the middle for Outreach engages with most people through a lot of digital, print and in-person initiatives. This newly expanded activity report covers all work of the SETI Institute to offer a more holistic view of the impact of our work.
You can download the entire October 2017 activity report here.
Big Picture Science
Last week Wonder Women celebrated women in science including Jill Tarter (SETI Institute), Angela Saini (journalist), Kathryn Clancy (associate professor of anthropology on the University of Illinois) and Antonia Franco (executive director, Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and local Americans in Science). There has been also a Facebook Live with Seth Shostak and Molly Bentley discussing the show, and that video are available at the SETI Institutes Facebook page.
This weeks encore presentation of Time Travel Agents wonders whether time travel could ever be possible.
Last week featured SETI Institute scientist Mark Showalter discussing the Frontier Worlds nicknaming campaign for brand spanking new Horizons next flyby target, MU69.
All past Facebook Live videos will also be seen at the SETI Institutes Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SETIInstitute/.
Astronomy Society of the Pacific: December 5-8, St. Louis, MO Pamela Harman will speak.
American Geophysical Union: December 11-15, New Orleans, LA SETI Institute Scientist Matt Tiscareno will present research at the planetary rings of Saturn and the Cassini mission. Other SETI Institute scientists participating will include Nathalie Cabrol, Franck Marchis, and Pamela Harman.
American Astronomical Society: January 8-12, Washington, DC SETI Institute scientists and staff will participate.
Consumer Electronics Show: January 9-12, Las Vegas, NV Franck Marchis will participate