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What is Astropalaeontology?

Most commonly the term has been used by authors such as John Armitage (‘The prospect of astro-palaeontology’) to describe the study of prehistoric extraterrestrial life. Astropalaeontology in this sense is a sub-discipline of astrobiology, and in fact as Armitage argued it may be more likely that we will discover the remains of extinct extraterrestrial life before we discover a living example. Exopalaeontology and astropalaeobiology are synonyms, and I’ve also seen palaeoastrobiology. Xenopalaeontology doesn’t seem to have caught on in serious circles. It’s worth noting again that astropalaeontology is a separate discipline from xenoarchaeology, as terrestrial palaeontology is from archaeology (although in both cases the fields share a blurry boundary). Archaeological fields are more concerned with cultural remains, which are created by sophonts. Secondly the term has been used to describe the study of … Read entire article »

Filed under: Theory

Heritage Listing Worlds

I mentioned in my last post some thoughts about the cultural heritage value of the planet Venus. To recap, I argued that Venus has been noted throughout history as one of the brightest objects in the night sky, prompting names such as the Morning or Evening Star. This distinguishing brightness has furthermore given Venus a special place in the mythology of many human cultures. According to Wikipedia, Carl Sagan was the first person to propose terraforming Venus in 1961. Terraforming is, of course, the process of altering a planet to make it earthlike. There are other reasons to think twice about undertaking such a project, but here I’ll consider the cultural side of things. I’d argue that the cultural significance of Venus for much of human history arose from its brightness in … Read entire article »

Filed under: Theory

Selenoglyphs

Geoglyphs are large-scale drawings on the earth’s surface made by either adding or exposing different-coloured material. Historic and archaeological features such as the famous Nazca lines in Peru, or hill figures such as those found in England are examples. People are still making geoglyphs, including the Marree Man created by unknown artists (or vandals?) in the 1990s, and various works of the Land Art movement of the 1960s and 70s. A recent story about Japanese plans to send an anthropomorphic robot to the Moon to draw a flag on the surface set me thinking about lunar geoglyphs. That term, like geology is derived from the Greek word for Earth, Ge. Selenoglyphs would be more appropriate, based on the Greek word for the moon, Selene. The discipline of lunar geology is called selenology, for example. There are … Read entire article »

Filed under: Artefacts