Astrobiology

SETI and the Computational Universe

Dr Stephen Wolfram, founder & CEO of Wolfram Research, and creator of Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha and the Wolfram Language will come to the SETI Institute to discuss his latest thinking about the relation between searching for complex behavior in the computational universe of simple programs, using this in creating AI, and searching for intelligence elsewhere in our physical universe.

 

400 years of Planetary Cartography - mapping channels on Mars

Since Galileo, astronomers and planetary scientists work hard to draw accurate representations of planetary surfaces. Planetary mapping today is a tool of geological investigation, landing site selection and also a visual statement of our ever expanding horizon of discovery. From copper engravings to dynamic online maps, the technique of presenting planetary maps changed a lot.

But What About the Stellar Occultation Data of Pluto's Atmosphere?

Before the flyby of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, one of the major sources of data about Pluto's atmosphere was ground-based observational data of light intensity as Pluto moved in front of a background star.  From these data the temperature of Pluto's atmosphere as a function of altitude was derived using various techniques.  These techniques rely on knowledge of the vertical temperature structure of Pluto's atmosphere before doing the calculation from light intensity to temperature, the very property that is being sought.  Here I will make the distinction between the "inverse problem" a

The enigma of planetesimal formation: theoretical developments on cold-disk protoplanetary turbulence and small particle assembly

The riddle of planet formation is a key question in solar system studies. Models of the disk formation process show that there are regions where the disk can be turbulent, and regions where it is dynamically quiet. The quiet zones are called 'Dead Zones'.

The implication that Dead Zones are widespread in planet forming protoplanetary disks has sparked renewed interest in assessing the dynamical state of these Dead Zone objects.  

On the Shores of Titan's Farthest Sea

In this talk, Author/artist Michael Carroll will explore the bizarre methane-filled seas and soaring dunes of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Recent advances in our understanding of this planet-sized moon provide enough information for authors to paint a realistic picture of this truly alien world. Following his presentation, he will be signing his new science fiction adventure/mystery book, "On the Shores of Titan's Farthest Sea".

Exploring the outer Solar System: now in vivid colour

The outer reaches of our Solar System are home to hundreds of thousands of small icy worlds. Their present orbits are a sculpted signature of the early migrations of the giant planets, particularly Neptune. Yet the faintness and highly eccentric orbits of most of these worlds mean only a tiny fraction of them have yet been discovered. With the Outer Solar System Origins Survey on CFHT, we are discovering up to five hundred new outer Solar System objects, with exquisitely well-determined orbital parameters.

The bizarre orbits of minor planets beyond Neptune

The major planets in our solar system are on nearly circular orbits in a well-defined disk plane. The minor planets, however, take very different paths around the sun. Many minor planets are on orbits that tilt 30 degrees or more out of this disk plane; bizarrely, as Dr. Madgian will describe in the talk, they all tilt the same way! Theories for their unusual orbits include the presence of an undetected super-Earth or 'Planet X' at hundreds of AU, or an encounter with a passing star which deposited its own minor planets in our outer solar system.

From Perchlorate in breast milk to Perchlorate on Mars

The Phoenix mission to Mars clearly demonstrated the usefulness of wet chemistry analyses to understand the composition of planetary surfaces, and it tentatively revealed the presence of ~0.5% of perchlorate by weight of Martian soil. This talk will explore why open tubular ion chromatography (OTIC) is the necessary next step in wet chemistry analyses for planetary exploration, both in terms of technical feasibility, and science versatility. We will discuss the performance of OTIC in comparison to other approaches such as capillary electrophoresis.

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