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Astronomy Day (Fall)
"But where is everybody?"
~ The Fermi Paradox, Enrico Fermi (1901-1954)
Seek and ye shall find! The Fermi paradox, named after Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi, is the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence for extraterrestrial life and various high estimates for its probability, such as in the optimistic Drake Equation, which takes into account the following factors:
N = The number of communicative civilizations
R* = The rate of formation of suitable stars (stars such as our Sun)
fp = The fraction of those stars with planets (current evidence indicates that planetary systems may be common for stars like the Sun)
ne = The number of Earth-sized worlds per planetary system
fl = The fraction of those Earth-sized planets where life actually develops
fi = The fraction of life sites where intelligence develops
fc = The fraction of communicative planets (those on which electromagnetic communications technology develops)
L = The "lifetime" of communicating civilizations
But progress is being made on the frontier of our own solar system exploration! Astrobiology, formerly known as exobiology, is an interdisciplinary scientific field that studies the origins, early evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. Astrobiology considers the question of whether extraterrestrial life exists, and if it does, how humans can detect it. Current studies on the planet Mars by the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers are searching for evidence of ancient life as well as plains related to ancient rivers or lakes that may have been habitable. Advancements in the fields of astrobiology, observational astronomy and discovery of large varieties of extremophiles with extraordinary capability to thrive in the harshest environments on Earth, have led to speculation that life may possibly be thriving on many of the extraterrestrial bodies in the universe. In June 2018, NASA announced the detection of seasonal variation of methane levels on Mars. Methane could be produced by microorganisms or by geological means. The European ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter started mapping the atmospheric methane in April 2018, and the 2022 ExoMars rover Rosalind Franklin will drill and analyze subsurface samples, while the NASA Mars 2020 rover Perseverance, having landed successfully, will cache dozens of drill samples for their potential transport to Earth laboratories in the late 2020s or 2030s. As of February 8, 2021, an updated status of studies considering the possible detection of lifeforms on Venus (via phosphine) and Mars (via methane) was reported! 🪐 🌳 👾
Astronomy Day is celebrated twice in a year, in spring and in fall. In the fall, it is scheduled to occur on the Saturday between mid-September and mid-October closest to the first quarter Moon.
This tartan was designed for Charles Cockell, Professor of Astrobiology, at Edinburgh University.
The tartan colours were chosen specifically for the field of Astrobiology, the branch of biology concerned with the study of life on earth and in space.
The black background represents space; the blue squares represent oases of water on potentially habitable worlds, thought to be a necessity for life; green represents life - thin lines tenuously threaded through the Universe and intersecting in water with three green lines representing planet Earth, the third planet from the Sun, the only planet currently known to support life; the red lines represent Mars, a planet at the edge of habitability; the yellow line represents our Sun, the only star at the current time known to support a life-bearing planet; the white line represents the colour of the distant stars as seen from the surface of any planet in the Universe - other planets that might support life.
For the latest news and research from the UK Centre of Astrobiology in Edinburgh, click the artist's conception of a terraformed Mars.