2006 Annual Science Report

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Reporting  |  JUL 2005 – JUN 2006

Executive Summary

The central goal of the Goddard Center for Astrobiology is to understand how organic compounds are created, destroyed, and altered during stellar evolution leading up to the origin of life on a planet, such as Earth. Planetary systems form by collapse of dense interstellar cloud cores. Some stages in this evolution can be directly observed when stellar nurseries are imaged, while other stages remain cloaked behind an impenetrable veil of dust and gas. Yet to understand the origin of life on Earth, we must first develop a comprehensive understanding of the formation of our own planetary system. To understand the probability of finding life elsewhere we must understand both the similarities and differences between the evolution of our own system and that of a typical star.

Dense cloud cores are very cold (10-50 K); their dust grains are coated with ices comprised of water and ... Continue reading.

Field Sites
8 Institutions
17 Project Reports
0 Publications
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Project Reports

  • Progress Report for APL Effort in Goddard Center for Astrobiology

    Theme 4 work at JHU/APL using laser time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOF-MS) techniques continues in collaboration with the Goddard Center for Astrobiology (GCA) team and external partners.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.2 3.1 3.2 7.1
  • X-Ray Emission From Young Stars and a Comet

    The high energy process in the young stellar environment would be important in stimulating chemical reaction of molecules and producing pre-biotic materials.

  • Origin and Evolution of Organics in Planetary Systems

    As part of the overall Astrobiology Node at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, whose goal is an understanding of the Origin and Evolution of Organics in Planetary Systems (Mike Mumma, P.I.), Co-Investigator Blake is directing both laboratory and astronomical spectroscopy programs.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.2 3.1
  • Origin and Evolution of Organics in Planetary Systems

    This progress report summarizes astrobiology research done at Washington University in St. Louis under the direction of Professor Bruce Fegley, Jr. This research is part of the NASA Goddard Astrobiology Node.

  • Large Scale Circulation and Organic Synthesis in the Primitive Solar Nebula

    Analytical studies of natural materials such as meteorite components, interplanetary dust particles and presolar grains, and telescopic observations of the solids in comets, protostellar nebulae, giant molecular clouds and the interstellar medium place important chemical and textural constraints on the processing of materials throughout the history of the solar system. Many of these same constraints may also apply to the materials in modern protostellar systems.

  • Numerical Simulations of Planetary Dynamics

    Dr. Lufkin, in collaboration with Drs. Richardson and Mundy, has investigated the effect of giant planet migration on disks of planetesimals, to estimate the feasibility of finding terrestrial planets exterior to known Hot Jupiter systems. Theories of planet formation suggest that giant planets should be forming and migrating at the same time as terrestrial planets are forming in and around the habitable zone. The giant planet can strongly affect the orbits of planetesimals that might otherwise be forming Earth-like planets (Figure 1).

  • Instrumentation for the Analysis of Organic Materials in Natural Samples

    CM2 carbonaceous chondrites contain a wide variety of complex amino acids, while CI1 types Orgueil and Ivuna display a much simpler composition, with only glycine and β-alanine present in significant abundances

  • Direct Detection and Characterization of Extrasolar Planets

    Drake Deming and collaborators expanded their direct detection of “hot Jupiter” planets orbiting other stars

  • VLA Observations of a Hot Molecular Core in the Young Stellar Object NGC1333 IRAS4A

    Pedelty, Mundy, and Charnley performed Very Large Array (VLA) λ7mm observations of the hot molecular core in the low mass star formation region NGC 1333 IRAS 4A in November 2005

  • Cosmic Ice Laboratory: Organic Synthesis in Energetically Processed Ices

    In the Cosmic Ice Laboratory we simulate the vacuum and low-temperature environment of space using a high-vacuum chamber and a cryostat. Ice samples condensed on a cooled mirror inside the cryostat are irradiated with 1 MeV protons to simulate cosmic-ray bombardment or are photolyzed to simulate vacuum-ultraviolet (UV) exposure.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.2 3.1 7.1
  • Studies of Oxidized Carbon in Cometary Ice

    The accomplishments of Dr. Michael DiSanti (Co-I, Goddard Center for Astrobiology, NAI) in the past year fall into two distinct although related categories: (1) Ongoing research on the organic volatile composition of comets, and (2) E/PO-related activities

  • Accomplishments of Graduate Student William Anderson
  • Constraints on the Chemical Nature of the Lunar Impact Basin Forming Impactors

    The purpose of this work is to fingerprint the late additions to the Moon using the relative abundances of the highly-siderophile elements (HSE) that occur in generally high abundance in likely impactors, but extremely low abundance in the indigenous lunar crust.

  • The Evolution of Organics in Space
  • Satellite Thermal Remote Sensing of Boiling Springs Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park

    Pedelty worked with the NAI Virus Focus Group (ViFoG), co-chaired by K. Stedman, Portland State University, and former NAI director B. Blumberg, Fox Chase Cancer Center, to understand the thermal history of Boiling Springs Lake (BSL) in the Lassen Volcanic National Park.

  • Chemical Models of Nebular Processes
  • Summary of Activities in the Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory

    Dworkin has been active in the lab section of the GCA Astrobiology Team by operating the Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory and collaborating with numerous other laboratories. This involves the creation and maintenance of a world-class organic analytical laboratory. In the last year he developed the methodology for the detection of chiral amino acids at the femtomole level in a variety of laboratory and natural samples.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.1 2.2 3.1 7.1