Aurion Mission: Aug 9, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

If ET phones, we're listening again -- thanks to you. 
Astronomers at the cash-strapped SETI Institute are poised to resume the quest for extraterrestrial life, after raising more than $200,000 to restart a key array of telescopes. 
The institute was forced to put the hunt on hold in April, after cash-strapped governments decided they could no longer afford to pay the interstellar phone bill. To raise the required money, SETI turned to crowdsourcing: It unveiled the website in June and independently raised the $204,129 needed to restart the Allen Telescope Array
"Thank you to everyone who helped us reach our goal of getting the ATA back online!" reads a note posted to the SETI website. "Stay tuned for updates. We are discovering more Earth-like planets every day, so now is more critical than ever to look for extraterrestrial life."
In April, astronomers at the SETI Institute said a steep drop in state and federal funds has forced the shutdown of the Allen array, a powerful tool in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence
"There's plenty of cosmic real estate that looks promising," Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the institute, said at the time. "We've lost the instrument that's best for zeroing in on these better targets."
The 42 radio dishes that make it up had scanned deep space since 2007 for signals from alien civilizations while also conducting research into the structure and origin of the universe. The $50 million array was built by SETI and UC Berkeley with the help of a $30 million donation from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen
The quest for funding isn't over yet, however. Operating the dishes cost about $1.5 million a year, mostly to pay for the staff of eight to 10 researchers and technicians to operate the facility. An additional $1 million a year was needed to collect and sift the data from the dishes. 
The Institute is looking for other source of money for the $2.5 million it requires annually to operate.
The SETI Institute was founded in 1984 and has received funding from NASA, the National Science Foundation and several other federal programs and private foundations. It uses other tools in the quest for alien life, such as a dish at Arecibo in Puerto Rico, the largest radio telescope in the world.
The difference, Shostak said, was that SETI researchers can point the Arecibo telescope at selected sites in space for only about two weeks a year.
While the telescope in Northern California is not as powerful, it could be devoted to the search year-round.
"It has the advantage that you can point it where you want to point it and you can keep pointing it in that direction for as long as we want it to," Shostak said.
The dishes also are unique in the ability to probe for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations while gathering more general scientific data.
"That made the telescope a double-barreled threat," said Leo Blitz, a professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley and former director of the observatory that includes the Allen Telescope Array.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read more:

Moonbell Moon music by JAXA

moonbell : listening to the topography of the moon.
Lunar orbiting satellite Kaguya (SELENE) <>
was launched from Tanegashima Space Center on September 14, 2007 at 10:31am.
Kaguya is currently orbiting the moon, taking observations of the lunar surface with 14 different sensors.
moonbell uses data from one of those sensors, a laser altimeter, or LALT, transforming the altitude data into musical intervals.
created by "and space" moonbell project team with JAXA/SELENE
Ichiro Higashiizumi, Takuya Shimada, Takashi Yamaguchi, Satoru Higa, Tom Vincent, Junya Hirokawa, Eriko Kobayashi, Hikaru Koike
2008 - 2009

KAGUYA LALT DATA observed by JAXA/SELENE and proceed by NAOJ

Update: 'Doomsday Ark' on the Moon -A Remote Access Toolkit to Rebuild the Human Race

“Eventually, it will be necessary to have a kind of Noah’s ark there, a diversity of species from the biosphere."

Bernard Foing, Chief Scientist/Research, European Space Agency

If the human species should be destroyed on Earth, our future may reside on the Moon if plans.being drawn up for a “Doomsday ark” on the moon by the European Space Agency are carried through. The Ark will contain the essentials of life and human civilization, to be activated in the event of earth being devastated by a giant asteroid or nuclear war.
The construction of a lunar information bank, discussed at a conference in Strasbourg last year, would provide survivors on Earth with a remote-access toolkit to rebuild the human race.

A basic version of the ark would contain hard discs holding information such as DNA sequences and instructions for metal smelting or planting crops. It would be buried in a vault just under the lunar surface and transmitters would send the data to heavily protected receivers on earth. if no receivers survived, the ark would continue transmitting the information until new ones could be built.

The vault could later be extended to include natural material including microbes, animal embryos and plant seeds and even cultural relics such as surplus items from museum stores.

As a first step to discovering whether living organisms could survive, European Space Agency scientists are hoping to experiment with growing tulips on the moon within the next decade.

The first flowers – tulips or arabidopsis, a plant widely used in research – could be grown in 2012 or 2015 according to Bernard Foing, chief scientist at the agency’s research department.

Tulips are ideal because they can be frozen, transported long distances and grown with little nourishment. Combined with algae, an enclosed artificial atmosphere and chemically enhanced lunar soil, they could form the basis of an ecosystem.

The first experiments would be carried out in transparent biospheres containing a mix of gases to mimic the earth’s atmosphere. Carbon dioxide given off by the decomposing plants would be mopped up by the algae, which would generate oxygen through photosynthesis.

The databank would initially be run by robots and linked to earth by radio transmissions. Scientists hope to put a manned station on the moon before the end of the century.

The databank would need to be buried under rock to protect it from the extreme temperatures, radiation and vacuum on the moon. It would be run partly on solar power. The scientists envisage placing the first experimental databank on the moon no later than 2020 and it could have a lifespan of 30 years. The full archive would be launched by 2035.

The information would be held in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish and would be linked by transmitter to 4,000 “Earth repositories” that would provide shelter, food, a water supply for survivors

Casey Kazan via ESA and


Coronal Holes: 09 Aug 11

A new coronal hole is emerging over the sun's east limb. Credit: SDO/AIA.
M-CLASS SOLAR FLARE: Sunspot 1263 produced an impulsive M3-class solar flare on August 8th at 1810 UT. In Falmouth, Maine, amateur astronomer John Stetson happened to be observing the sun and he caught the sunspot in mid-eruption:
"Perhaps we will get some more auroras this week," Stetson wrote hopefully. Alas, no. Although this eruption did hurl a CME into space, the plasma cloud does not appear to be heading for Earth. Further analysis could reverse this conclusion, however, so stay tuned for updates.
more images: from Andreas v. Rétyi of Coburg, Germany; from Dave Gradwell of Birr Ireland; from SDO in Earth orbit
WEEKEND AURORAS: A widespread display of auroras erupted late Friday, Aug. 5th, when a double-CME hit Earth's magnetic field and sparked a G4-category geomagnetic storm. Click on the image to view a time lapse video of the event recorded by Michael Ericsson on the shores of Tibbitt Lake in the Northwest Territories of Canada:
"Although not the most intense auroras I've ever seen, this one is definitely up there on my favorites list," he says.
The show was not restricted to Canada. Northern Lights spilled across the border into the United States as far south as Oregon, Utah, Colorado, and Nebraska. (Note: The faint red lights photographed in Nebraska are typical of low-latitude auroras during major geomagnetic storms.) Observers in Europe as far south as England, Germany and Poland also witnessed a fine display. Browse the gallery for more examples.
Did you miss the show? Don't let that happen again. Sign up for geomagnetic storm alerts: text, voice.