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SETI Institute
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Our mission is to explore, understand, and explain the origin and nature of life in the universe, and to apply the knowledge gained to inspire and guide present and future generations.
Our mission is to explore, understand, and explain the origin and nature of life in the universe, and to apply the knowledge gained to inspire and guide present and future generations.

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This week’s #SpaceBookLive will be tomorrow, Wednesday, 15 August, at 3:40PM PDT. We’ll be talking to the NASA Astrobiology Institute teams who are meeting at our office. For more information on the Institute: https://buff.ly/2w7JxA0
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Institute in the news
August 2 - August 8, 2018

* Planetary Protection: the Moon and Beyond
* Captured Stars: Novel Theory on Advanced Alien Technology

Both these stories and more: https://buff.ly/2waYiCe
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Girl Scouts Astronomy Adventure Destination Camp teaches skills and inspires interest in space science:

The camp program was a blend of space science activities, camp maintenance, hiking, badge skills and observing objects in the magnificently dark night skies through the telescopes at Pine Mountain Observatory (PMO) in Oregon. We began each day with an inspirational quote from a female scientist and a daily challenge such as observe an object in the night sky that you have not seen before and record your observations, ask a question and share a learning experience with someone. It was inspiring to give them an activity, then step back and watch them help each other through the steps, to ensure that everyone understood the concept before moving on, with comradery, without judgement. The girls then shared their learning and were leaders during the Observatory’s public star party, the last night of camp. From setting-up tents through telescope assembly; astronomy concepts, practices and discussions; through observing and interacting with the public with style and grace; and through breaking camp, they were respectful and inclusive. Read more: https://buff.ly/2w4Gs3K
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Where dunes once trod – Lori Fenton's Blog

Mars has been dusty, and that’s affecting the quality of HiRISE images (just look at the recent images in the catalog and you’ll see they’re not that great). That’s made it hard for me to choose a good one for my blog. I suppose I could go with a grainy image and talk about things like the “cost of real data” and “one person’s noise is another person’s data” (because surely someone will make use of those poor-quality images to track dust clouds, or something). I’m waiting to see where the bright dust falls out on the surface, because I want to show you dust-covered dunes, and then watch how the wind slowly clears them off. It will be a bit like watching snow melt in the spring, if you live in a place that gets snow in the winter.

But first I found a really neat image of missing dunes.

No really.

Sometimes in science, it’s not what you find, but what you don’t find, that matters.

And yeah, it’s a little grainy when you look at full resolution. But you can still see the important bits.

A couple of months ago a paper came out by Day and Catling describing “dune casts”. Here’s a closeup of two of them:

Credit: HiRISE ESP_055692_1720, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)

Read more: https://buff.ly/2w7IhN1
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TOMORROW: Next #SETITalks event: Join us on August 14 at 7pm at SRI International Headquarters in Menlo Park, CA for a special SETI Talk to hear about our education programs. Pamela Harman, Acting Director of Center for Education at the SETI Institute, will give an overview of our education programs, including our NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), the NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA), STEM Teacher and Researcher (STAR), Reaching for the Stars: NASA Science for Girl Scouts (Girl Scout Stars) and the NASA Frontier Development Labs (NASA-FDL). Several participants from those programs, including Jessica Henricks (Girl Scouts of Northern California Council), Zoe Sharp (STAR Fellow), Marita Beard (AAA) and one REU student of the year 2018 will discuss their experience and what they learned while being embedded in our Center for Education.

Free tickets still available: https://buff.ly/2LBO4kz
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Big Picture Science Radio Show: It's Habitable Forming

Evidence suggests a subsurface lake on Mars, prompting scientists to use the “h” word. Could the Red Planet be habitable? While we wait – impatiently – for a confirmation of this result, we consider the recipe for habitable worlds. Dive into a possible briny lake on Mars … protect yourself from the methane-drenched rain on Titan … and cheer on the missed-it-by-that-much-planets, the asteroids Ceres and Vesta. And do tens of billions of potentially habitable extrasolar planets mean that Earth is not unique?

Listen here: https://buff.ly/2nx4TTj
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APOD: 2018 August 13 - The Pencil Nebula in Red and Blue

Image Credit & Copyright: José Joaquín Perez

This shock wave plows through interstellar space at over 500,000 kilometers per hour. Near the top and moving up in this sharply detailed color composite, thin, bright, braided filaments are actually long ripples in a cosmic sheet of glowing gas seen almost edge-on. Cataloged as NGC 2736, its elongated appearance suggests its popular name, the Pencil Nebula. The Pencil Nebula is about 5 light-years long and 800 light-years away, but represents only a small part of the Vela supernova remnant. The Vela remnant itself is around 100 light-years in diameter, the expanding debris cloud of a star that was seen to explode about 11,000 years ago. Initially, the shock wave was moving at millions of kilometers per hour but has slowed considerably, sweeping up surrounding interstellar material. In the featured narrow-band, wide field image, red and blue colors track the characteristic glow of ionized hydrogen and oxygen atoms, respectively.

Larger image: https://buff.ly/2w6p4ve
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In the coming decades, as we gear up for a more in-depth search for life on Mars, as well as visits to potentially habitable ocean moons in the outer Solar System, should scientists start addressing the ethical concerns of accidentally contaminating these worlds with Earthly microbes, as well as the scientific implications? That’s the question posed by a trio of scientists who are arguing for a shake-up in how we think about planetary protection.

If there is life on Mars, or in the waters of Europa or Enceladus, then we risk contaminating it with terrestrial microbes before we can even get the chance to discover that life. Despite our best efforts, no mission goes into space completely sterile, but there are requirements: the Outer Space Treaty, which was signed by all space-faring nations in 1967, stipulates that every effort must be made to protect other worlds from contamination. The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) has guidelines that state that any mission designed to look for life on other worlds must not have a probability greater than 1-in-10,000 that a single microbe carried on board will contaminate potential extraterrestrial habitats.

Read more: https://buff.ly/2KKD0AF
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Martian dust storms are a pretty common occurrence, and generally happen whenever the southern hemisphere is experiencing summer. Though they can begin quite suddenly, these storms typically stay contained to a local area and last only about a few weeks. However, on occasion, Martian dust storms can grow to become global phenomena, covering the entire planet.

One such storm began back in May, starting in the Arabia Terra region and then spreading to become a planet-wide dust storm within a matter of weeks. This storm caused the skies over the Perseverance Valley, where the Opportunity rover is stationed, to become darkened, forcing the rover into hibernation mode. And while no word has been heard from the rover, NASA recently indicated that the dust storm will dissipate in a matter of weeks.

The update was posted by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, which oversees operations for the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, as well as NASA’s three Mars orbiters (Mars Odyssey, MRO, and MAVEN) and the Insight lander (which will land on Mars in 109 days). According to NASA, the storm is beginning to end, though it may be weeks or months before the skies are clear enough for Opportunity to exit its hibernation mode.

Read more: https://buff.ly/2nql3Op
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This week Hayabusa2 completed its closest approach yet to asteroid Ryugu. In a gravity measurement experiment conducted mostly on August 6, the spacecraft successfully dipped to within 1 kilometer of the asteroid. As before, the mission live tweeted events and pictures in both Japanese and English on Twitter, and posted the images to a Web gallery, enabling [Emily Lakdawalla] to post a detailed recap here: https://buff.ly/2KIeZtX
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