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SEARCH FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE HIGHLIGHTED AT ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY MEETING ON MAY 14TH

Last Updated on Sunday, 02 May 2010 13:21
Published on Friday, 25 February 2005 00:00

 

Current issues in the search for extraterrestrial life will be the subject of a half-day discussion meeting in London as part of the Royal Astronomical Society's regular monthly programme.

Media representatives are cordially invited to attend as observers. Speakers are expected to be available for interview immediately after the meeting, or by prior arrangement. (On the day of the meeting, please use Jacqueline Mitton's mobile phone number 0370 386133.)

An outline of the programme, and contact details for speakers is given below.

 

Discussion meeting at the
SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES LECTURE THEATRE
23 SAVILE ROW, LONDON W1
FRIDAY 14th MAY 1998
Organiser: Dr Barrie W. Jones (Open University, phone: 01908 653378 , e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

 

The search for extraterrestrial life has emerged as one of the great scientific quests that will surely dominate the early decades of the new millennium. This meeting will explore the likelihood of finding potential habitats beyond the Earth, the likelihood that any such habitats are populated with some form of life, and the likelihood that any such life has evolved to become technologically intelligent. Observational programmes for finding extraterrestrial habitats and extraterrestrial life will be described.

 

10.00 Registration (no fee)/Coffee/Posters

 

10.30 Dr Don Cowan (University College London, phone: 0171 504 2246, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

 

"Extremophilic micro-organisms and the search for exobiology" This presentation will review the current status of the 'envelope of life', and briefly discuss the diversity of extreme habitats together with the adaptations of the 'extremophile' organisms that occupy them.

 

10.50 Prof. Colin Pillinger (Open University, phone 01908 655049, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

 

"Beagle 2" The Beagle 2 project, part of the ESA's Mars Express mission, will land on our nearest planetary neighbour at the end of 2003. The lander carries experiments to look for past life, and to establish whether the conditions appropriate to life exist. As part of its programme of atmospheric analysis it will seek to detect compounds, such as methane, which could indicate contemporary life.

 

11.10 Dr Monica Grady (Natural History Museum, phone: 0171 938 9445, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

 

"The outer Solar System: habitable niches on inhospitable hosts" In recent years it has become apparent that Europa, and other satellites of the giant planets, harbour regions on or just beneath their surfaces where terrestrial forms of life could survive. This raises the possibility that at least some of these regions are hosts to extraterrestrial life today.

 

11.30 Prof. John Papaloizou (Queen Mary and Westfield College, fax: 0181 983 3522 , e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

 

"Formation of short period giant planets, orbital migration and terrestrial planets" Many of the known exoplanets are giants orbiting close to their stars. It is believed that these giants formed further out and migrated inwards. Migration mechanisms will be outlined, and the possible occurrence of terrestrial planets in such systems considered.

 

11.50 Dr Alan Penny (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, phone: 01235 445675, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

 

"Spectroscopic search for life on nearby exoplanets ­ the future" ESA's "Darwin" space interferometry mission, a candidate for a 2012 launch, will be able to take spectra of the atmospheres of Earth-like planets orbiting stars up to 50 light-years away. This talk will describe the effect of life on the atmosphere of an Earth-like planet, and how Darwin will be capable of detecting oxygen, a definite sign of active life, in a planet's atmosphere.

 

12.10 Prof. Paul C. W. Davies (Camtech, Australia, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Contact from 10 to 13 May via Jacqueline Mitton, phone 01223 564914, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

 

"SETI and biological determinism" The SETI project is founded on belief in biological determinism, i.e. that life is almost bound to emerge under earthlike conditions. Proponents of this view claim that life is "written into" the laws of physics. However, it isn't. That does not make biological determinism wrong, but dependant upon the existence of additional principles of organisation.

 

12.35 Dr Ian Crawford (University College London, phone: 0171 419 3431, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

 

"How common are extraterrestrial civilisations?" While life may be common in the Galaxy, the absence of evidence for extraterrestrial civilisations means that they are probably very rare. This suggests that there is no 'inevitable' evolutionary link between the origin of life and the emergence of spacefaring/communicating civilisations, and it is suggested that the evolution of multicellularity may be the bottleneck in this process. However, a fuller understanding of the cosmic significance of life can only come from a greatly enhanced exploration of the universe around us.

 

12.55 Dr Ian Morison (NRAL, Jodrell Bank, phone: 01477 571321, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

 

"Jodrell Bank's role in the Project Phoenix SETI experiment" Project Phoenix is the name of the resurrected search for extraterrestrial intelligence, following the early termination of the NASA search a few years ago. The search is conducted by a variety of radio telescopes around the world, and constitutes one of the major ongoing searches.

 

13.25 End of meeting

 

Issued by:
Dr Jacqueline Mitton, RAS Public Relations Officer
Office & home phone: Cambridge ((0)1223) 564914
FAX: Cambridge ((0)1223) 572892
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.