SETI Institute Projects and Programs (Listed Chronologically)

Tracing Aromatic Carbon's Cosmic Evolution

Wednesday, November 05 2014 - 9:09 pm, PST
The origin of carbonaceous matter starts with the injection of atoms, molecules and dust into interstellar space by C-rich, late type stars. There it is processed by ultraviolet radiation, energetic particles and shocks. Some of this material becomes incorporated into dense molecular clouds and fuels new stars and their emerging planetary systems. Observations over the past twenty years, combined with quantum chemical calculations and laboratory experiments have shown that aromatic materials are a very important component of interstellar matter. This proposal aims to shed light on the detailed chemistry and spectroscopy of cosmic aromatic materials.

The Carbon Dioxide Infrared Absorption Bands: Probes of the Chemistry on the Surface of Planetary Bodies

Wednesday, November 05 2014 - 9:04 pm, PST
CO2 is observed on Mars and on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and it is highly likely that it is to be found elsewhere among the outer planets. One of the most interesting occurrences of CO2 is inside water ice, where the observed CO2 vibrational band is shifted relative to that of the gas-phase or solid-phase CO2. Of even more interest is the fact that the position of the CO2 asymmetric stretching band varies from satellite to satellite. While laboratory work has yielded some insight into the change in CO2 frequency with water environment, there is still much to be learned; a difficult task because of the complexity of the system. Here we propose to simulate the vibration of CO2 inside various forms of water ice, from crystalline to amorphous and to clathrates. These calculations will yield sufficient insight into the correlation between the water environment at the molecular level and the observed CO2 vibrational frequency to aid in the interpretation of the laboratory experiments and the observations. One should then be able to deduce information about the nature of the water ice on the outer planets, yielding insight into its formation and history.

Target of Opportunity Observation of an Episodic Storm on Uranus

Tuesday, November 04 2014 - 10:58 am, PST
Target of Opportunity Observation of an Episodic Storm on Uranus

Methane Migration on a Uranus-class planet: symmetric or seasonal?

Tuesday, November 04 2014 - 10:55 am, PST
Methane Migration on a Uranus-class planet

REU SITE: Life in the Universe - Astronomy and Planetary Science at the SETI Institute

Tuesday, November 04 2014 - 9:25 am, PST
The SETI Institute (SI) proposes a renewed REU site with a focus on astronomy and planetaryscience, with a connecting theme of astrobiology. REU students will be partnered with scientists to conduct a broad range of research projects at facilities available onsite and nearby atthe NASA Ames Research Center.

Crater Relaxation and Stereo Imaging of the Icy Satellites of Jupiter and Saturn

Tuesday, November 04 2014 - 9:20 am, PST
Understanding the evolution of Solar System diversity is a top-level question identified by the 2006 NASA Solar System Exploration Roadmap. The satellite systems of Jupiter and Saturn provide opportunities to compare the very different evolutions of satellites which likely had similar starting points. These satellite systems range from currently active (Io and Enceladus) to geologically dead (Callisto and Mimas). Different satellites have evidently experienced radically different thermal histories, but as yet few quantitative constraints on these histories have been published.

Biogenic Gases from Anoxygenic Photosynthesis in Microbial Mats

Tuesday, November 04 2014 - 7:57 am, PST
This lab and field project will measure biogenic gas fluxes in engineered and natural microbial mats composed of anoxygenic phototrophs and anaerobic chemotrophs, such as may have existed on the early Earth prior to the advent of oxygenic photosynthesis. The goal is to characterize the biogeochemical cycling of S, H, and C in an effort to constrain the sources and sinks of gaseous biosignatures that may be relevant to the detection of life in anoxic biospheres on habitable exoplanets.

An Investigation of the Feedbacks between Pluto's Atmosphere and Surface

Tuesday, November 04 2014 - 7:47 am, PST
This proposal would directly investigate the global character of Pluto's atmosphere and its two-way feedbacks with N2 ice on the surface by combining a state-of-the-art three-dimensional atmospheric model with a detailed surface/subsurface thermal model.

Characterizing the Current Aeolian Transport Environment for Sediment in Greater Meridiani Planum

Tuesday, November 04 2014 - 7:36 am, PST
The overall goals of the proposed Mars research are to identify locations, areas, seasons, and times-of-day within a 10x10 degree study area (greater Meridiani Planum) where/when sand-sized particle transport by the wind (aeolian saltation) has occurred (may have occurred, is probable) within the contemporary era, and to initially characterize the atmospheric and/or geologic forcing mechanism(s) that create such aeolian-effective conditions near the surface. In order to achieve these goals, the proposed work will utilize both the analysis of high-resolution orbital imagery (e.g., HiRISE, CTX, MOC-NA; including any available repeat imaging of relevant locations) and high-resolution atmospheric modeling output (mesoscale and microscale; seasonally- and diurnally-resolved 3-D winds and atmospheric state information). The proposed effort would significantly advance the detailed understanding of the dominant non-catastrophic contemporary surface erosion process on Mars.

DREAM II: Dynamic Response of Environments at Asteroids, the Moon, and Moons of Mars

Tuesday, November 04 2014 - 7:22 am, PST
Dynamic Response of Environments at Asteroids, the Moon, and Moons of Mars