Astrobiology

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.

The SOFIA Observatory: Revealing the Hidden Universe with Airborne Science

NASA’s SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) is a flying observatory used by astronomers worldwide to conduct research at primarily infrared wavelengths. The unique capabilities of this mobile observatory enables scientific investigations ranging from our own Solar System origins to how stars and their accompanying planetary systems are formed. As an airborne telescope optimized for infrared data collection, SOFIA offers the only regular access to the wide swath of infrared wavelengths obscured by Earth’s lower atmosphere and unavailable to ground-based observatories.

The Twisted Universe: the cosmic quest to reveal which end is up

The cosmic microwave background (CMB) has spectacularly advanced our understanding of the origin, composition, and evolution of our universe. Yet there is still much to glean from this, the oldest light in the universe. Powerful telescopes are plying the skies in a quest to discover new physics.

The Breakthrough Initiative - Listen and Megastructures at KIC 8463

Dr. Andrew Siemion, Director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center (BSRC) at the University of California, Berkeley, will present an overview of the Breakthrough Listen Initiative, 100-million-dollar, 10-year search for extraterrestrial intelligence.  Dr.

Potentially biogenic carbon preserved in a 4.1 billion year old zircon

Although our planet is approximately 4.5 billion years old (Ga), Earth’s fossil record extends only to 3.5 Ga, the chemofossil record arguably to 3.8 Ga, and the rock record to 4.0 Ga.  However, detrital zircons from Jack Hills, Western Australia range in age up to nearly 4.4 Ga.  From a population of over 10,000 zircons from this locality, we identified one 4.10 Ga zircon that contains primary graphite inclusions in a crack-free region, and report carbon isotopic measurements on the graphite.  Evidence for carbon cycling or biologic activity can be derived from carbon isotopic studies, sin

Geology After Pluto

Jeff Moore is the lead of the New Horizons Geology Team. He will talk about the discoveries made by the New Horizons mission on the fascinating fly by of the dwarf planet Pluto.

 

Exoplanets spectroscopy with diffraction primary objective telescopes

When diffraction is employed as the primary collector modality of a telescope instead of reflection or refraction, a new set of performance capabilities emerges. A diffraction-based telescope forms a spectrogram first and an image as secondary data. The results are startling. In multiple object capability, the diffraction telescope on earth can capture 2 million spectra to R > 100,000 in a single night, better for a census of exoplanets by radial velocity than any prior art.

Observing the re-entry of space debris WT1190F

Dr. Jenniskens will describe the airborne observations he took part in of the re-entry of space debris on Nov 13, 2015.

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