SETI Institute Projects and Programs (Listed Chronologically)

OMEGA for Sustainable Aviation Biofuels

Monday, November 03 2014 - 11:47 pm, PST
We propose to investigate the most promising current biofuel feedstocks: microalgae. Microalgae are traditional grown in shallow circulating channels called “raceways” or in transparent enclosures known as photo-bioreactors (PBRs). To produce biofuels, thousands of acres of raceways and tens of thousands of PBRs will be required. To avoid competing with agriculture for land, raceways and PBRs can be located offshore and to avoid using water and fertilizer, they can use domestic wastewater from cities. This offshore wastewater system under development at NASA is called OMEGA (Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae).

Rapid Response to Announced Small Asteroid Impacts

Monday, November 03 2014 - 11:06 pm, PST
This project is to establish a program to prepare for and execute a rapid and effective response to a predicted Earth impactor, the next asteroid 2008 TC3. The objective is to fully characterize the asteroid before entry, to measure its internal strength and internal composition during entry, and to recover meteorites for extensive ground-based analysis. The ultimate goal is to forge links between meteorite mineralogy, meteoroid internal strength, and their parent asteroid spectral types, important data needed for the implementation of mitigation actions against a detected impact threat and characterize small Near Earth Objects of the type that are targets for recovery and manned missions.

A spectroscopic survey of meteoroid elemental compositions

Monday, November 03 2014 - 11:03 pm, PST
This project is to develop and deploy the first automated survey of meteoroid elemental compositions (Mg, Na, Fe, Ca, ...), by simultaneously measuring meteoroid orbits and meteor spectra in large numbers on both the northern and southern hemisphere. The survey will shed light on the diversity of meteor shower parent bodies. This data will be used to test recent planet formation models and improve the first dynamical model of the formation and evolution of the zodiacal cloud.

Laboratory measurements of the optical constants of complex organic matter

Monday, November 03 2014 - 10:51 pm, PST
Understanding the chemical nature of haze particles in the atmospheres of Titan and Saturn and materials on the surface of the Saturn system bodies is one of the goals of the Cassini-Huygens mission. Complex organic materials may exist as haze layers in the atmospheres of Titan and Saturn and as dark coloring agents on icy satellite surfaces. Laboratory measurements of optical constants of laboratory haze/condensate analogs at broad spectral wavelengths are crucial for the effort of interpreting the spectral observations by the Cassini-Huygens mission. However, there is a general lack of studies in vacuum ultraviolet, near-IR, and far-IR spectral regions, which is necessary for the Cassini’s UVIS, VIMS, and CIRS instruments. We propose to determine the optical constants of laboratory-generated complex organic matter in the wavelength region between 0.030 μm and 500 μm (20 cm-1), which covers spectral region crucial for the Cassini spectroscopic instruments (the UVIS, ISS, VIMS, and CIRS) and the DISR on the Huygens Probe. Our initial effort would be focused on the plausible organic hazes in Titan and Saturn by investigating complex organic materials 1) with/without nitrogen inclusion and 2) various degree of saturation [(H-N)/C]. Comlex organics consisting of C/H/O elements will also be investigated as potential organic matter on the surface of icy bodies and Saturn’s ring particles. Reliable optical constants from this proposed work would help the effort in interpretation of broad spectral observations by the Cassini mission to constrain the chemical and physical nature of those organic haze materials.

Reflight of the Stratospheric TeraHertz Observatory: STO-2 - Collaborative Proposal

Monday, November 03 2014 - 10:31 pm, PST
Here we propose the "Reflight of the Stratospheric TeraHertz Observatory: STO-2". STO-2 will address a key problem in modern astrophysics, understanding the Life Cycle of the Interstellar Medium (ISM). STO-2 will survey approximately ¼ of the Southern Galactic plane in the dominant interstellar cooling line [CII] (158 µm) and the important star formation tracer [NII] (205 µm). With ~1 arcminute angular resolution, STO-2 will spatially resolve atomic, ionic and molecular clouds out to 10 kpc. Taking advantage of its enhanced, extended lifetime cryogenic receivers, the STO-2 survey will be conducted at unparalleled sensitivity levels. STO-2 will uniquely probe the pivotal formative and disruptive stages in the life cycle of interstellar clouds and the relationship between global star formation rates and the properties of the ISM. Combined with previous HI and CO surveys, STO-2 will create 3-dimensional maps of the structure, dynamics, turbulence, energy balance, and pressure of the Milky Way's ISM, as well as the star formation rate. Once we gain an understanding of the relationship between ISM properties and star formation in the Milky Way, we can better interpret observations of nearby galaxies and the distant universe.

Mars Surface Processes, Exploration and Educational Outreach

Monday, November 03 2014 - 7:35 pm, PST
The proposal contains four broad tasks. Task 1 outlines Mars Landing Site Selection activities support for the Mars Science lab 2009 mission. Task 2 suppors HiRISE Science CoI team responsibilities as part of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). Task 3 supports the PI's responsibilities for leading and developing HiRISE's Education and Public Outreach effort. Task 4 involves the continuation of PI Gulick's The Geologist's Field Assistant project.

Modeling the Diversity of Protoplanetary Disks

Monday, November 03 2014 - 7:26 pm, PST
We propose a multiwavelength analysis of gaseous protoplanetary disks by modeling archival Spitzer, ISO and Herschel infrared line emission data using our gas disk thermo-chemical models. We will use archival infrared, optical, UV and X-ray data, supplemented with ground-based observational data from literature for a sample of 12 disks spanning a range of stellar masses, disk conditions and evolutionary epochs.

COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH: Understanding Protoplanetary Disk Winds and Planet Interactions via Disk Emission Lines

Monday, November 03 2014 - 7:15 pm, PST
This collaborative research proposal will use an integrated approach that combines theory and observations to systematically study disk winds, evolution, and dispersal. We will analyze a unique dataset of high resolution optical and mid-infrared spectra for a sample of 55 disks around low and intermediate-mass stars at different stages of evolution. We will model the observed line emission fluxes and profiles using state-of-the-art thermochemical and 2-D hydrodynamical models for a sub-sample of disks, selected to represent various evolutionary epochs, to understand photoevaporative flows and to estimate resulting mass loss rates. Using hydrodynamical models to study the impact of planetary torques on disk structure, and thermochemical models to predict observable diagnostics, our study will distinguish rim emission due to photoevaporation from that due to planet-induced gaps and holes. This study will reveal the structure of the inner disk, calculate accretion rates, and probe emission characteristics when gas accretes past a planet. We will further seek new emission line diagnostics of photoevaporative winds and planet-disk interactions and make predictions for future observations using ALMA and other high resolution, high sensitivity facilities.

Disk Evolution, Dispersal and Planet Formation

Monday, November 03 2014 - 4:02 pm, PST
We propose theoretical investigations of protoplanetary disk evolution and dispersal to study how the spatial and temporal distribution of gas and solids in disks affect their planet-forming potential. We will determine the properties of disks and host stars that are most favorable to the formation of planetary systems by conducting a parameter survey using our theoretical models. These will include stellar mass, stellar X-ray and UV luminosities, level of ionization in the disk, disk initial angular momentum, gas to dust mass ratio and dust physical and chemical properties.

Preformed Complex Organic Molecules from the Matrix of Magnetic Minerals

Monday, November 03 2014 - 3:48 pm, PST
We propose an in-depth study of the formation of Cn-H-O-N-S entities in the matrix of laboratory-grown MgO and gem-quality olivine crystals from the upper mantle, using IR spectroscopy and ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry of solvent extracts from crushed powders. The work is relevant to prebiotic chemistry in the Exobiology Program.