Weekly Digest Feb. 14, 2014

David Morrison and Carl SaganThe SETI Institute's David Morrison Publishes Carl Sagan Memoir
David Morrison, director of the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute, has written a biographical memoir of Carl Sagan (1934-1996), founder of the modern disciplines of planetary science and exobiology.

Tom PiersonNASA Honors Tom Pierson, Founder of SETI Institute
Thomas Pierson, founding Chief Executive Officer of the SETI Institute, was presented the Distinguished Public Service Medal by the National Aeronautics and Space Agency on February 9, 2014 by Dr. Pete Worden, Director of NASA Ames Research Center.

janice bishopMeet Our Scientists - Janice Bishop, Senior Research Scientist
Dr. Janice Bishop is a chemist and Senior Planetary scientist at the SETI Institute who explores the planet Mars using spectroscopy.

DE-STARIs Planetary Defense Feasible - DE-STAR: A Planetary Defense and Exploration System
Dr. Lubin discusses how his team has proposed an orbital planetary defense system that is capable of beamed power allowing a number of directed energy (DE) possibilities.

dna imageBig Picture Science Radio Show: Gene Hack, Man
Computers and DNA have a few things in common. Both use digital codes and are prone to viruses. And, it seems, both can be hacked. From restoring the flavor of tomatoes to hacking into the president’s DNA, discover the promise and peril of gene tinkering.

Gliese 667cBold Prediction: Intelligent Alien Life Could Be Found by 2040
Bold Prediction: Intelligent Alien Life Could Be Found by 2040 - Click through to see why Seth Shostak thinks discovery of alien life may happen in the next 2 dozen years.

Auroras on SaturnSaturn's Auroras Glow in 360-Degree Views from NASA Spacecraft
Saturn's auroras dance in a new video that shows the ringed planet's northern and southern lights shining in amazing, 360-degree detail.

Earth as seen from MarsCuriosity captures its first photo of Earth from the surface of Mars
Look close - for the first time since arriving on Mars, NASA's Curiosity Rover has captured a picture of the Earth. And remarkably, if you look really closely, you can also see our moon.

Supernova'Oldest star' found from iron fingerprint
Australian astronomers may have found a star that is 13.6 billion years old, making it the most ancient star ever seen.

Upcoming Lecture!

On Wednesday, February 26th, 2014, at 7 pm, Dr. Alex Filippenko (of the University of California, Berkeley) will give a free, illustrated, non-technical talk on:

Exploding Stars, New Planets, Black Holes, and the Crisis at Lick Observatory

in the Smithwick Theater at Foothill College, in Los Altos. The talk is part of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, now in its 14th year.

Lick Observatory, the first remote mountaintop observatory in the world, has had a remarkable record of discovery spanning 126 years. It continues to be a vibrant research facility, especially for projects that require large numbers of nights on modest-size telescopes. Come hear about the exciting research areas in which Lick remains a world leader, such as the discovery and monitoring of exploding stars (which help us understand our own chemical origins as well as the ultimate fate of the universe); the search for planets orbiting other stars, especially Earth-like planets; and the study of giant black holes in the centers of nearby galaxies.

Lick is used to develop and test new instruments, such as the “adaptive optics” systems that can give telescopes on Earth clarity that matches or exceeds that of the Hubble Space Telescope. Lick is also a primary base for the University of California’s astronomy education and outreach efforts. Yet, despite all this, the UC Office of the President has decided that the university’s funding for Lick will be terminated by 2016−2018, given the financial pressures on UC. This crisis has inspired a group of Silicon Valley and Bay Area leaders to begin a serious search for alternative sources of funding to sustain this vital Bay Area institution. Come find out, from the President of the Lick Observatory Council, what Lick is all about and why we need to keep it going!

Dr. Alex Filippenko, the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences at UC Berkeley, is a world-renowned expert on some of the most dramatic fields in astronomy, including exploding stars, black holes, and cosmology. An elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, he was the only person to have been a member of both teams that revealed that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. This discovery, based in part on work done by him at Lick Observatory and elsewhere, was honored with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics to the teams’ leaders. Voted the “Best Professor” on the Berkeley campus a record 9 times, he was also named the 2006 Carnegie/CASE National Professor of the Year at the university level. He has produced 5 astronomy video courses with The Great Courses, coauthored an award-winning astronomy textbook, and appears in about 100 TV documentaries. In 2004, he was awarded the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization.

Foothill College is just off the El Monte Road exit from Freeway 280 in Los Altos. For directions and parking information, see: http://www.foothill.edu/news/transportation.php For a campus map, see: http://www.foothill.edu/news/maps.php The lecture is co-sponsored by:

  • The SETI Institute
  • NASA Ames Research Center
  • The Foothill College Astronomy Program
  • The Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

We expect large crowds, so please arrive a little bit early to find parking. Having exact change or bills for the $3 parking fee helps speed up the line.

Past Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures are now available in MP3 format at: http://astrosociety.org/silicon-valley-astronomy-lectures/

The site gives instant access to over two dozen past lectures, including Steve Beckwith on the Hubble Telescope’s deepest views, Mike Brown on his discovery of worlds beyond Pluto, Natalie Batalha on the Kepler mission planet discoveries, Chris McKay on what it’s like on Saturn’s moon Titan, Sandra Faber on the origin of galaxies, Alex Filippenko and Roger Blandford on black holes, and Seth Shostak on new approaches to finding extra-terrestrial civilizations.