Developing a Roadmap of Astrobiology Societal Issues

SETI Principle Investigators Margaret Race and Rocco Mancinelli are convening an interdisciplinary workshop at the Institute from Feb 9-11 that includes experts from a range of disciplines, including law, ethics, policy, theology, philosophy, social sciences, education, communication, and astrobiology sciences. Supported by a grant from the NAI, the invited participants are charged with systematically analyzing the diversity of societal issues that arise in Astrobiology research and space exploration.

Nuclear Weapons and Space Weapons

Our panellists will present three 15 minute technical and scientific presentations on standard space and nuclear weapons capabilities and effectiveness, national requirements and intentions, existing conventions and potential future agreements, followed by 15 minutes for questions and discussion. All discussions will be on unclassified or declassified material.

The Galactic Planetary Census

During the past decade, over three hundred planets have been discovered orbiting stars beyond the Sun. The catalog of planets is rapidly pushing down to ever-lower masses, and the discovery of potentially habitable planets is likely no more than a year or two away. In this talk, Greg will focus on how the emerging and distinct population of "Super Earth" type planets is giving an advance indication of both the frequency of occurrence and the mechanisms of formation for terrestrial-mass planets in the local galactic neighborhood.

What's hot in Saturn's Rings?

Dr. Jeff Cuzzi (NASA Ames), Dr. Mark Showalter (SETI Institute) and Dr. Stuart Pilorz (JPL/SETI Institute) are outer planets scientists working on the currently ongoing Cassini mission to Saturn. All three are experts on Ring systems, and have used the instruments of Cassini to learn more about the most dazzling Rings in our Solar System. They will address the new information that has come back to us from Cassini, the old questions that have been answered, and the new questions that have arisen in the course of this mission.

Direct detection of extrasolar planets and the Gemini Planet Imager

The next frontier in the study of extrasolar planets is direct (imaging) detection of the planets themselves. Such direct detection is sensitive to planets inaccessible to current radial-velocity surveys and allows spectral characterization of the planets, shedding light on planet formation and the structure of other solar systems. We are constructing the Gemini Planet Imager, combining advanced adaptive optics, coronagraphy, and an integral field spectrograph/polarimeter to detect and characterize giant planets and circumstellar dust disks around nearby stars.

The Advanced Studies Laboratory - A unique linkage between UCSC and NASA Ames

Dr. Rose Grymes is the inaugural director of the Advanced Studies Laboratory (ASL), a NASA Ames and UC Santa Cruz strategic partnership created last year and currently based in Building 239 of NASA Ames. The ASL is developing a shared-use, open-access environment and engages projects as Affiliates which join the ASL consortium. The current membership, eight Affiliates, has focal interests linking advanced materials science and technology to planetary exploration, particularly astrobiology.

Life in a cold and dry planet - Lessons for the Phoenix Mission

The Atacama Desert (Chile) ranks as the driest desert on Earth, and is considered a good analog to the extremely arid conditions on Mars. Alfonso will show how photosynthetic bacteria in the hyper-arid core of the Atacama are almost exclusively found within hygroscopic salts, which favor the condensation of water at relative humidity levels that otherwise hinder the occurrence of liquid water on the surface. The resulting saturated solutions are challenging to life, but the habitability of some salts is enhanced at temperatures close to the eutectic.

The Role of Cortical Noise in Brain Function

Professor Glaser will show some visual dynamic and static visual illusions and the effects of ethanol and marijuana on these illusions. He will speculate that ET's may experience a different set of illusions related to their own brain structures and functions. Could their language and visual imagery depend on these cerebral features and therefore be difficult for us to "understand" or appreciate? Do you assume in your work that their physics is the same as ours? 

Jets and Outflows from Young Stars: How They Help Shape the Early Solar System

Jets and outflows from young forming stars are among the most spectacular and energetic phenomena in the night sky. They are ubiquitous in star forming regions, and signal the birth of stars like our own. Similar phenomena exist around new higher massive stars, compact objects, and even black holes. They may differ in dynamics, energetics or emission mechanisms, yet they share the striking similarities in their highly-collimated appearance and high-velocity outflowing motion of gas.

Probing the Meteorology of our Protoplanetary Disk with Cometary Mineralogy

Our planetary system formed out of a rotating accretion disk of gas and dust, often called the solar nebula. In the outer disk where temperatures were cold enough to harbor ices and interstellar materials, comet nuclei accreted. Yet, comets also accreted Mg-rich crystalline silicate mineral grains that formed in the hot inner disk close to the young Sun. Hence, cometary Mg-rich crystalline silicates are the touchstone for radial transport of grains that formed in the inner protoplanetary disk out to the comet-forming zone.


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