SETI Institute Projects and Programs (Listed Chronologically)


Thursday, November 06 2014 - 9:28 am, PST
We propose a feasibility study for a small spaceborne mid-Infrared telescope/spectrometer designed to detect and characterize the delivery and survival of extraterrestrial organic matter to the atmosphere (and hence to the Earth). This instrument would detect the dilute levels of organics present in the upper atmosphere by using astronomical mid-infrared light sources along a viewing path that grazes the Earth atmosphere at an altitude of 80 to 100 km (where meteoritic debris is known to accumulate). This would provide a very long path length and allow, for the first time, the detection and characterization of the material that meteors are delivering by the detection of the mid-IR absorbances in the molecular bands. This would provide the first measurement of the amounts of delivery and the types of compounds being delivered and allow characterization of the amounts/types of prebiotic molecules that would become available for the origin of life. It would also provide a better understanding of the organics being formed in solar nebula.

Lipids and the Origin and Evolution of Life

Thursday, November 06 2014 - 9:26 am, PST
This work will support experiments designed to better understand the how lipids relate to the origin of life. It looks at events leading up to the origin of life (prebiotic chemistry) and at the subsequent evolution of life after the last common ancestor, LUCA (and hence, at how one might extrapolate back from current life toward the LUCA). This coop will include work on the formation of amphiphilic vesicles and the role they may have played in supporting and containing chemistry and the origin of life. It also includes studying the use of lipids in microorganisms and how such usage evolved and how that information can be linked to the study of biogeochemical analysis of samples containing lipids as biosignatures.

Understanding laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) on Mars - New approaches for quantitative elemental analysis and mineral classification

Thursday, November 06 2014 - 9:21 am, PST
We propose to study advanced spectral processing methodologies for the extraction of mineralogical information from complex geological materials, and to investigate the atmospheric-mineral matrix coupling effects under Martian environmental conditions. For this, we will make use of Washington University in St. Louis unique laboratory facilities which will allow us perform high-resolution multispectral analysis of standard samples and mixtures representative of Martian mineralogy.

Science Processing Support for the Extended Kepler Mission

Thursday, November 06 2014 - 9:19 am, PST
In December 2001, Kepler became the 10th mission selected for flight by NASA’s Discovery Program, and the first such oriented to achieve goals under NASA’s Origins theme. The Kepler Mission seeks to determine the prevalence of Earth-size and larger planets orbiting solar-like stars in the solar neighborhood, and to characterize the stellar properties favoring the development of planetary systems. It achieves this goal through transit photometry by monitoring ~156,000 main-sequence stars continuously and simultaneously for at least 3 1/2 years, to detect signatures of transiting planets in the flux time series of their host stars. In April 2012, the NASA Astrophysics Senior Review recommended extending Kepler for an additional 4 years of science operations, through September 2016. This proposal seeks to support the operation and evolution of the science pipeline to support Kepler’s Extended Mission

Observations of the Pluto System During the New Horizons Encounter Epoch

Thursday, November 06 2014 - 9:15 am, PST
Observations of the Pluto System During the New Horizons Encounter Epoch

Observations and Dynamics of Ring-Moon Systems

Thursday, November 06 2014 - 9:13 am, PST
The Cassini data sets have provided remarkable new insights about the processes at work among the rings and small moons of Saturn. Guided by these discoveries, we will seek out and investigate related phenomena in the ring-moon systems orbiting Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. We will employ data from Voyager, Cassini and New Horizons, complemented by the best publicly available data from HST and from the W. M. Keck Telescope. We will apply new and powerful image analysis techniques that should enable us to obtain significant new results from old data.

Precision Pointing Reconstruction and Backplanes in Support of Cassini Remote Sensing Science

Thursday, November 06 2014 - 9:11 am, PST
The objective of this proposal is to generate several higher-order data products that will substantially reduce the level of effort required to analyze Cassini's optical remote sensing data sets (ISS, VIMS, CIRS and UVIS), by eliminating the need for most scientists to perform their own navigation and geometric reconstruction.

Initial Analysis of Pluto's Tiniest Moon

Thursday, November 06 2014 - 9:08 am, PST
This is an unsolicited proposal to perform the initial scientific analysis of Pluto’s tiniest moons, the recently-discovered “P4” (S/2011 (134340) 1; Showalter et al. 2011) and “P5” (S/2012 (134340) 1; Showalter et al. 2012b). It will enable the P.I. to determine the bodies’ orbits, shapes and sizes based on all of the available Hubble data, using established measurement and modeling techniques. The results of this analysis will be published promptly and will be presented at a scientific workshop about the Pluto system in July 2013.

Orbital Evolution and Stability of the Inner Uranian Moons

Thursday, November 06 2014 - 9:06 am, PST
Orbital Evolution and Stability of the Inner Uranian Moons

CIRS Investigations of Planetary Rings

Thursday, November 06 2014 - 9:04 am, PST
This is a new, five-year proposal to support the work of CIRS co-investigator Dr. Mark Showalter on behalf of the Cassini Project. It is a successor to our current cooperative agreement, NNX06AC85A. The predecessor agreement has supported the Cassini-related activities of Dr. Showalter and his SETI Institute colleagues Dr. Stu Pilorz, Robert French and, briefly, Dr. Nicolas Altobelli. This report provides a brief summary of our accomplishments during the previous agreement and outlines our plans for the years ahead. The Cassini Mission is now expected to continue into 2017, so this proposal describes our planned work for most of the remainder of the Cassini tour. Our activities encompass conducting fundamental scientific research with the CIRS data, plus meeting a large and continuing set of responsibilities for mission operations and planning.