SETI Institute Projects and Programs (Listed Chronologically)

Dune Morphology and Atmospheric Models: Implications for Present-Day Martian Aeolian Activity

Monday, August 16 2010 - 3:56 pm, PDT
It has long been unclear whether the many sand dune fields on Mars are actively evolving in the present climatic era. Recent evidence of sand avalanching and active sustained saltation has been identified in high resolution images. In particular, we report the first clear indications of ripple migration over dark dune slopes observed from orbit. We propose a comprehensive study that will specifically address this knowledge gap, via the careful analysis of high-resolution spacecraft imagery over the majority of the planet (between 60° N and 60° S). In fact, even the preliminary investigation of a small sampling of such imagery has already yielded evidence of recent sand avalanching on dark dune slip faces and the first clear indications of ripple migration (superposed on the dark dunes) observed from orbit. Such morphological indications provide unprecedented details of sustained saltation on Mars. This newly found activity refutes the commonly held belief that dunes on Mars are inactive in the present-day wind regime. Such a provocative topic deserves immediate, detailed study to determine how current dune activity provides unique ground truth for today's weather patterns on Mars.

Ices and Organic Molecules in Space

Thursday, July 22 2010 - 2:16 pm, PDT
This program focuses on ice experiments for comparison to interstellar and Solar System objects, meteoritic organics, and interstellar dust particles (IDPs). We also are actively pursuing related observational and theoretical projects through collaborations with other scientists at NASA, universities, and non-profits.

Undergraduate Research at the SETI Institute in Astrobiology (USRA): a Partnership Between the SETI Institute and San Jose State University

Thursday, July 01 2010 - 10:34 am, PDT
Students who participate in hands-on undergraduate research projects are more likely to pursue advanced degrees in STEM disciplines (Russell et al., Science 316, 548-549, 2007).

Intracellular Redox Control for Adaptation and Survival in Planetary Environments

Thursday, April 01 2010 - 4:38 pm, PDT
This project is centered around the hypothesis that exposure to environmental extremes results in intracellular oxidative stress, which is modulated by the elemental content of cells. We are using X-ray fluorescence imaging and X-ray transmission microscopy at SSRL (Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource) to map the elemental composition of halophilic cyanobacteria from the Atacama desert and of green algae, and determine changes that may represent responses to transient fluctuations in the environment. Linking these with the genomic and molecular changes in cells helps uncover a possible mechanism of adaptation and evolution.

Microbial Ecology of Early Earth and Modern Artificial Environments

Wednesday, February 24 2010 - 4:00 pm, PST
If we are to understand complex microbial communities we need to understand not only the microbes themselves but their community dynamics as well.

Organic Aerosols in the Early Earth Atmosphere: Reaction Network an Its Isotope Signature

Thursday, October 01 2009 - 10:09 am, PDT
Experimental simulations of Titan's atmospheric and surface chemistries in order to understand the formation of complex organic molecules as well as the abiotic formation of prebiotic molecules, providing important clues to the origin of life on the early Earth.

The Rings Node for the Planetary Data System

Friday, August 28 2009 - 2:14 pm, PDT
Continued improvements in the Planetary Data System, specifically the Rings Node, including development of an interactive website to engage the public about the diversity and significance of planetary ring systems.

Microbial Contamination Detection at Very Low Levels by [125] I Radiolabeling

Friday, July 17 2009 - 2:16 pm, PDT
The goal of this projects is to develop a new and more sensitive method for the determination of bioburdens for planetary protection purposes.

Astrobiological Investigations of Martian Perchlorate and Carbonate Containing Soils

Monday, June 22 2009 - 10:59 am, PDT
Analysis of the roles perchlorate and carbonate chemistry play in the origin, preservation, and distribution of organic biosignatures on Mars.

Detection of Organics and Bioburden

Sunday, February 01 2009 - 2:56 pm, PST
Testing of a Raman/UV instrument designed for remote detection of organic materials on future astrobiology missions, to assist in the protection of other planets from Earth microbes carried by spacecraft.

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