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 Astrobiology ~ Ronald Anderson

Are we alone in the universe? Is it possible that the whole universe is only home to one planet that harbours life? Is earth just an ordinary rocky planet in an ordinary planetary system or is it much more than that? We have always looked up to the stars and asked if we are alone.  The question "where is everybody?" has yet to be answered.

This month's talk will be about :

.  early speculations

.  the discovery of the first planets 

.  some examples of the types of planets discovered so far and the methods used for their discovery

.  what is life?

.  planned missions in the solar system to examine if life, however primitive, exists. Or if the

   conditions for life are present

Compact Nuclear Fusion ~ Dr Tony Baxter

With the failure of National Ignition Facility (NIF) in the US to reach its ignition target, and construction delays on the European International Experimaental Reactor (ITER), frustration is growing within the fusion community on whether these expensive projects on a ~30 year cycle represent the best strategy towards commercial fusion. A minority “maverick” community is emerging, funded mainly from private sources, that puts the "engineering first”. This has led to a number of proposed smaller, lower power reactor approaches, that are being constructed with a cycle more like ~5 years. In part this involves new rare earth superconductors for magnets that may make ITER, where fusion gain may not be achieved till ~2025, already obsolete.

Planet 9 or Planet X ~ David Pulley

This month saw the announcement of a potential new planet, Planet 9, made by researchers at Caltech.  The idea of a planet beyond Neptune, Planet X, is nothing new and suggested by Percival Lowell in the very early 20th Century.  This led to a search and the ultimate discovery of Pluto, now demoted from planet status. We will look at how Planet 9 has been predicted and other earlier and current attempts to predict planets in our solar system.

The Local Group