Aliens will be here next year, and they will want our beer

Altair is a bright star in the contellation of Aquila. It is only 16.7 light years away. We don’t yet know if there are Earth-sized planets on Altair, but we have just begun to learn how to look.

Nishi-Harima Astronomical Observatory

Here’s the problem: In 1983, Hisashi Hirabayashi and Masaki Morimoto were two astronomers at the Nishi-Harima Astronomical Observatory…

Well, this is awkward. It seems that they had enjoyed a little something to drink.

NOT one of our esteemed scientists…

And they sent out a message in the direction of Altair.

“KANPAI!” Was the message, a traditional Japanese toast. They also sent the details of an alcohol molecule.


This was not the first message that Earthers have sent in the direction of the stars. The famous Arecibo message was sent in 1974, for instance.

But what’s interesting, and a little concerning, is that the signal to Altair will have already arrived by now (ca 1999), and if any Altairians received this message, and if they decided to reply right away, we will receive their message (or their light-speed invasion ships) sometime in 2015.


Alien life will be discovered soon – NASA
NASA in 2014 announced that discovering life on another planet is within our reach within 20 years. Mark your calendar now

NASA astronomer Kevin Hand suggested that the moon of Jupiter, Europa, could prove to have a form of life.
Now, that’s kind of a rash statement for a scientist to make, since all we know is that Europa has some form of water. Certainly frozen, with a possibly liquid form deep under that icy crust. That is VERY speculative.

Unless you’ve been pointed to that satellite by someone with more advanced technology.

Maybe that 20 years is not the time frame for the technology to be developed (although we will have powerful exoplanet-hunting telescopes on orbit by that time), but a period for humanity to be become accustomed to the idea that we are not alone.

James Webb observatory

A bug that eats metal

Science continues to find life – on Earth! – that evades our definition of what life should be. That’s on Earth.

Scientists have discovered a “metal munching” plant (Rinorea niccolifera) in the Philippines. “Professor Fernando said that the Rinorea niccolifera’s leaves can take in up to 18,000 parts per million of nickel. This is a thousand times more than what any other known plant species can safely absorb.”

We need news such as this, to help us prepare for the likely undefinable life that we will encounter on other stars one day.

Of course, it’s ironic, that the first thought upon this discovery, is who we can make money from it, putting it to work in our mines.


Obviously we have seen evidence of “tidal heating” in some of the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn. So if there are any “Super-Earths” that are orbiting outside of a star’s “Goldilocks zone” then they still might be worth checking out.

This article misses the fact that our planet-finding capabilities are currently weighted towards finding very large planets in very close orbit around very small stars. Using these current techniques, we would not be able to find Earth from Alpha Centauri.

So, we cannot assume that there are NO Earth-sized planets there.

Earth is the only known example of an inhabited planet in the Universe, so the search for alien life has focused on Earth-like worlds. But what if there are alien worlds that are even more habitable than Earth-like planets?

A recent paper in the journal Astrobiology examines the potential for so-called “superhabitable” worlds. One such planet might even exist around the stellar system closest to Earth: Alpha Centauri B.

The study was authored by René Heller of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and John Armstrong of Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, USA. According to the authors, their collaboration was “inspired by a question John Armstrong asked online during an AbGradCon talk in 2012.”

The Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) is supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and is organized by graduate students and post docs in fields related to astrobiology. AbGradCon provides early career researchers with the chance to discuss research, network and collaborate. AbGradCon 2014 will be held at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York. For more information, visit:

To be habitable, a world (planet or moon) does not need to be located in the stellar habitable zone (HZ), and worlds in the HZ are not necessarily habitable. Here, we illustrate how tidal heating can render terrestrial or icy worlds habitable beyond the stellar HZ. Scientists have developed a language that neglects the possible existence of worlds that offer more benign environments to life than Earth does. We call these objects “superhabitable” and discuss in which contexts this term could be used, that is to say, which worlds tend to be more habitable than Earth. In an appendix, we show why the principle of mediocracy cannot be used to logically explain why Earth should be a particularly habitable planet or why other inhabited worlds should be Earth-like.

Superhabitable worlds must be considered for future follow-up observations of signs of extraterrestrial life. Considering a range of physical effects, we conclude that they will tend to be slightly older and more massive than Earth and that their host stars will likely be K dwarfs. This makes Alpha Centauri B, which is a member of the closest stellar system to the Sun and is supposed to host an Earth-mass planet, an ideal target for searches for a superhabitable world. Key Words: Extrasolar terrestrial planets—Extraterrestrial life—Habitability—Planetary environments—Tides. Astrobiology 14, 50–66.


There could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive

Absolutely what I have been saying all along: when we meet genuine alien life forms or intelligence, we will have difficulty recognizing it for what it is.

“They could be staring us in the face and we just don’t recognize them. The problem is that we’re looking for something very much like us, assuming that they at least have something like the same mathematics and technology.”

The intriguing remark was made by Lord Martin Rees, a leading cosmologist and astrophysicist who is the president of Britain’s Royal Society and astronomer to the Queen of England. Rees believes the existence of extra terrestrial life may be beyond human understanding.

“I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive. Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there as aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains,” Rees observed.
An alien might have four limbs, just like we humans. Or it might sport 17 tentacles, depending on evolutionary pressures. We can observe, quantify and describe such things. But how can we truly gauge the workings of an alien mind?



Yes, one of my favorite places in the system surrounding the star called “the Sun”.

Titan is a large moon orbiting Saturn. It is remarkable in that it has lakes consisting of methane and ethane, which are liquid at Titan’s temperature.

Recently, waves have been observed in the surface of one of its lakes. 1

What’s so remarkable about that? Follow me.

There IS wind on Titan. The mostly nitrogen atmosphere blows enough to visibly sculpt dunes in the surface of Titan. Yet the lakes of Titan have – until now – not shown evidence of waves. 2

Methane, in its liquid state, has very low viscosity. Thus it should be easy for it to form waves. 3

Here we go:
Researchers had previously toyed with several explanations, including that the lakes may be frozen or covered with a tar-like substance that damps wave motion. 4

A TAR-LIKE substance? Think about that for a minute. If we know the physical characteristic of the liquid in this lake, and we have a ballpark idea of what kind of winds are blowing, then we should be able to predict what kind of waves we should see.

It appears that the waves are smaller and less frequent than we have predicted.

Is there something floating on the surface of this lake. Pond scum? LIFE? How would it survive there?

Well, we do have forms of life on Earth that are methanogens, meaning that they create methane in the way that we create carbon dioxide when we breathe. They are archaea, simply the most primitive and ancient forms of life on our planet. These MIGHT be the source of all this methane.

There are also methanotrophs, primitive lifeforms that consume methane.

Since Titan’s methane inevitably evaporates into space, something on the surface must be producing it. And something seems to be consuming atmospheric hydrogen at the surface.

I think it’s time to get ourselves back to Titan. There are just too many mysteries and opportunities for astounding discoveries on this remote rock.

More Martian bugs?

Detail of the Allan Hills meteorite.

We all remember the famous Allan Hills meteorite (Allan Hills 84001) that – in 1996 – was thought to have evidence of fossil bacteria on it.

By the way, how do we know that these rocks were from Mars?
The SNC meteorites are from Mars
NASA Rover Confirms Mars Origin of Some Meteorites

Anyway, recently Astrobiology Journal reported that meteorite Yamato 000593, found in Antarctica in 2000, “contains microscopic burrows and spheres that resemble the marks microorganisms leave when they eat through rocks on Earth”.

From the folks at NASA:

“The team found two distinctive sets of features associated with Martian-derived clay. They found tunnel and micro-tunnel structures that thread their way throughout Yamato 000593. The observed micro-tunnels display curved, undulating shapes consistent with bio-alteration textures observed in terrestrial basaltic glasses, previously reported by researchers who study interactions of bacteria with basaltic materials on Earth.

“The second set of features consists of nanometer- to-micrometer-sized spherules that are sandwiched between layers within the rock and are distinct from carbonate and the underlying silicate layer. Similar spherical features have been previously seen in the Martian meteorite Nakhla that fell in 1911 in Egypt. Composition measurements of the Y000593 spherules show that they are significantly enriched in carbon compared to the nearby surrounding iddingsite layers.”

Paired with the recent discoveries suggesting that Mars once had abundant water, this is opening the way to the possibility of life in space, in a form that even the most cautious scientist can begin to accept.

The bug hunter diaries