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Could pass through our solar system occasionally.

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Could pass through our solar system occasionally.
Could pass through our solar system occasionally.

Dr. Seth Shostak Answers Your Questions About SETI.

You're really interested in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. We put out the call, and received dozens of questions for SETI researcher Seth Shostak. The forum team picked out their favorites, and passed them along to Dr. Shostak. Here are his answers. Thanks to everyone who participated: both the questioners and Dr. Shostak for taking the time to put together his answers. And a special thanks to Ola D. in the forum Community Support team for organizing this. See if your question was answered.

Moss Grows in a Spiral... in Space.

An experiment recovered from the wreckage of the Space Shuttle Columbia has given researchers valuable insights into how plants behave when they're growing in space. Experimenters were expecting common roof moss to grow in random, confused directions, but instead it grew in an ordered spiral pattern. On Earth, gravity controls the growth of moss so that it grows directly away from the centre of the planet. It's possible that this spiral direction is a backup growth response that existed before the moss evolved the ability to detect gravity. Unfortunately, only 11 out of 87 cultures were salvageable from the Columbia's wreckage.

New spacecraft Will Map the Edge of Our solar system.

NASA has chosen to fund a new spacecraft, called the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), to study the edge of the Solar System, where the solar wind from the Sun interacts with interstellar particles. IBEX will launch in 2008, and take a highly elliptical orbit that keeps it away from the influence of the Earth's magnetosphere. It's equipped with two neutral atom imagers designed to spot interstellar particles as they interact with the outgoing solar wind. IBEX will also study galactic cosmic rays that pose a radiation risk to space explorers.

Dark Matter Halos Were the First Objects.

The nature of Dark matter is one of the mysteries currently puzzling astronomers. A new study published in the journal nature proposes that halos of Dark matter the size of our solar system (but with only the mass of the Earth) were the first objects to form after the big bang, and they served as the gravitational glue that attracted regular matter. It's possible that there are still more than a quadrillion (a million billion) of these halos just in our own galaxy, and they could pass through our solar system occasionally. New observatories could be able to detect the gamma ray trails of these Dark matter halos as they move through the Solar System, confirming one theory that they're composed of exotic particles called neutralinos.

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