Astrobiology

Exocomets: Now you see them, now you don't

Minor bodies such as Kuiper Belt objects, comets, and asteroids constitute the rocky and icy debris left over from the planet building phase of our solar system. The existence of reservoirs of small rocky bodies (i.e., asteroids/planetesimals) in orbits around young stellar systems is now well established, with their presence being required by current (exo)planetary formation theories.

Constraining the Evolution of a Delta Deposit on Mars from Orbit

Decades of planetary exploration have revealed widespread evidence for ancient fluvial activity on the surface of Mars, including deeply incised valleys, paleolake basins, and an extensive sedimentary rock record. Acquisition of high-resolution remote sensing data of the martian surface (e.g., images and topography) over the past 5-10 years have allowed for quantitative analysis of the large-scale sedimentary structures of martian sedimentary deposits.

Unlocking the Secrets of Nearby Exoplanets with the TESS Mission

Dr. Ricker is the PI of the TESS Mission which will explore nearby stars for exoplanets.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will discover thousands of exoplanets in orbit around the brightest stars in the sky. In its two-year prime survey mission, TESS will monitor more than 200,000 bright stars in the solar neighborhood for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. This first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, around a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances.

Crucible of Worlds: A System for Space Synthetic Biology Experiments

Aaron Berliner is the Science PI on a recently funded NASA Ames SIF project to investigate Mars habitability. He will talk about the development of the "extreme conditions" Crucible environmental chamber. The project is a collaboration between NASA Ames Research Center, UC Berkeley, and Autodesk to build a system that will allow for biology experiments under extreme conditions as a step towards space synthetic biology.

How Stars Form

Stars are the atoms of the universe. The process by which stars form is at the nexus of astrophysics since they are believed to be responsible for the re-ionization of the universe, they created the heavy elements, they play a central role in the formation and evolution of galaxies, and their formation naturally leads to the formation of planets. Whereas early work on star formation was based on the assumption that it is a quiescent process, it is now believed that turbulence plays a dominant role.

Robust Emergence of diverse planetary systems

Recent observations indicate that super Earths are common whereas gas giants are relatively rare. Based on the sequential core accretion scenario, Dr. Lin will discuss how various physical effects which may lead to the prolific production of super Earths, independent of the mass and metallicity of their host stars, and the marginal occurrence rate of gas giants and its dependence on the host stars' properties.

How galaxies are influenced by the largest structures in the Universe

When viewed at the largest scales, the distribution of galaxies in the Universe resembles a complex, tangled web: an interconnected network of filaments of galaxies that surround vast, empty voids. Simulations and theory have established that filaments – the largest, most densely populated structures in the Universe - have formed in the billions of years after the Big Bang, and serve as conduits for transporting gas into galaxies, which they then turn into stars.

Geological field trip to Gale crater, Mars: a view from the ChemCam on MSL

Located on Curiosity's mast, the ChemCam instrument ("Chemistry and Camera") uses a laser to provide the elemental composition of geological features along the rover's path. Since 2012, it has contributed to the investigation of geological units that record a time when on Mars, at Gale crater, liquid water was present at the surface. 

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