2007 Annual Science Report

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Reporting  |  JUL 2006 – JUN 2007

Executive Summary

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Field Sites
12 Institutions
21 Project Reports
0 Publications
0 Field Sites

Project Reports

  • Origin and Evolution of Organics

    This research is part of the NASA Goddard Astrobiology Node. Our outgassing models predict the composition of first-formed atmospheres on the Earth and other rocky planets in our own and other solar systems formed from chondritic material. Chondritic material forms in any protoplanetary disk with solar or near-solar composition.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 3.1 3.2
  • Fingerprinting Late Additions to the Earth and Moon via the Study of Highly Siderophile Elements in Lunar Impact Melt Rocks

    The purpose of this work is to fingerprint late additions to the Moon (and presumably the Earth) using the relative abundances of highly-siderophile elements (HSE) that occur in generally high abundance in likely impactors, but in extremely low abundance in the indigenous lunar crust. Towards this end, numerous sub-samples of each of 4 rocks were analyzed this year.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1
  • Extrasolar Planets

    D. Deming and his collaborators made new measurements of the temperature of the transiting extrasolar planet HD 209458b, using Spitzer observations of the planet’s secondary eclipse. The new observations indicate that the planet is somewhat hotter that the T ~ 1130° K temperature obtained from the initial Spitzer observations in 2005.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.2
  • Cosmic Ice Laboratory

    In the Cosmic Ice Laboratory we simulate the low-pressure, low-temperature environment of space using a high-vacuum chamber and a cryostat. Ice samples are prepared on a pre-cooled mirror inside the cryostat and then exposed to energetic processing.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.2 3.1 7.1
  • Composition of Parent Volatiles in Comets: Emphasis on Oxidized Carbon

    Co-I DiSanti’s research emphasizes the chemistry of volatile oxidized carbon, in particular the efficiency of converting carbon monoxide to formaldehyde and methyl alcohol on the surfaces of icy grain mantles prior to their incorporation into the nucleus.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.1
  • Breakdown of Methane Due to Electric Discharge: A Laboratory Investigation With Relevance to Mars

    The search for methane in the Martian atmosscaldwell@arc.nasa.govphere has been implemented from Mars orbit (Formisano et al. 2004) as well as with Earth-based telescopes (Krasnopolsky et al. 2004; Mumma et al. 2004).

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1
  • Towards a Cometary Taxonomy Based on Organic Composition

    This research is targeted on building a new taxonomy for comets based on their parent volatile compositions, especially organics. This taxonomy is crucial for understanding the role of each taxonomic group in delivering prebiotic organics and water to early Earth. During this reporting period, we identified the first comet of Kuiper belt origin belonging to the “organics-depleted” class (joining two Oort cloud comets of similar composition).

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 3.1 4.1 4.3
  • The Evolution of Organics in Space

    Understanding the nature of the natal interstellar cloud is crucial to understanding the chemistry of the solar nebula, and hence the chemistry of the Sun and planets. Since that cloud no longer exists, it is necessary to study the cores of existing dense interstellar clouds where stars are forming. Moreover, since the physical conditions vary among and within such clouds, it is important to investigate the chemical and physical processes in a variety of such environments.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.1
  • Summary of Activities in the Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory

    Dworkin and collaborators have 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. His lab was largely created with GCA funds, and Dworkin leveraged them by obtaining internal GSFC funds sufficient to double its space and equipment.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.1 2.2 3.1 7.1
  • Search for Biomarker Gases on Mars

    Our team is engaged in a search for local sources of methane, water, and other biomarker gases on Mars, and for associated chemical species, using astronomical remote sensing techniques. We acquire simultaneous maps of atmospheric gases in the key infrared spectral region (wavelengths 3.0 – 3.8 μm) where aliphatic and aromatic organic gases have strong vibrational bands.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 5.3 6.2 7.1
  • New Astrobiology Virtual Conference Facility
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: None Selected
  • Chemical Models of Nebular Processes
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1
  • X-Ray Emission From Intermediate-Mass Young Stars and Star-Forming Regions

    High-energy photons in the young stellar environment are known to be important in stimulating chemical reactions of molecules and producing pre-biotic materials that might later be incorporated into comets.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.1
  • Laser Mass Spectrometry for Planetary Analog and in Situ Chemical Analyses

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

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 7.1
  • 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 2.1 3.1
  • Synthesis of Complex Organics on Natural Grain Analogs

    In this reporting year, we conducted a systematic study of amorphous iron silicate smokes as catalysts for producing complex hydrocarbons in the proto-planetary disk by simultaneous Fischer-Tropsch/Haber-Bosch reactions, e.g., CO + N2 + H2 => complex hydrocarbons and water (Figure 1).

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 3.1
  • Accomplishments of Graduate Student Avi Mandell
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: None Selected
  • Accomplishments of Graduate Student Yani Radeva
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: None Selected
  • Summer Undergraduate Internships in Astrobiology
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: None Selected
  • Accomplishments of Graduate Student William Anderson
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: None Selected
  • BioSignatures of Earth and Earth-Like Planets
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 7.2