2008 Annual Science Report

University of Hawaii, Manoa Reporting  |  JUL 2007 – JUN 2008

Executive Summary

There is no executive summary for this team at this time.

Field Sites
27 Institutions
47 Project Reports
0 Publications
0 Field Sites

Project Reports

  • The Delivery of Short-Lived Radionucleides to the Solar System

    I have studied various astrophysical scenarios for the delivery of short-lived radionucleides to star forming cores and planet forming disks in order to explain the observed abundances of 26-Al and 60-Fe in primitive meteorites. The latter, in particular, implies the birth of our solar system closely followed the death of a massive star. It is hard to reconcile the astrophysical and cosmochemical pictures but the most likely birth environment of our Sun was in a giant molecular cloud that formed several generations of stars.

  • TES Study of Intracrater Low Albedo Deposits, Amazonis Planitia, Mars

    We studied low albedo deposits in the floors of craters within the Amazonis Planitia region using data from orbiters of Mars to determine how these deposits were formed. These deposits are dominated by mafic minerals (olivine, pyroxene) with very low clay contents, which suggests that these deposits had limited contact with water.

  • Origin and Activation Mechanism of Main Belt Comets

    The newly discovered icy asteroids, known as Main Belt Comets (MBCs), are dynamically similar to the main belt asteroids while present physical characteristics (e.g., dusty tails and comae) that resemble those of comets. This project aims to understand the origin of these objects and the mechanism of their activation. Results indicate that MBCs were most likely formed in situ, and their activation was caused by collision with small meter-sized objects.

  • Observations and Models of Comet 17p/Holmes

    On October 23 2007, Comet 17P/Holmes abruptly brightened by a factor of a million, from 17th to 3rd magnitude, in an apparent abrupt outburst of material. We have applied image enhancement techniques to show that the ejected material includes discrete lumps thrown in many directions. Also, we have developed a novel modeling approach that combines dust with dust-emitting fragments, and we are using it to constrain the nature of Holmes’ eruption.

  • Mechanisms of Marine Microbial Community Structuring

    The sub-tropical open ocean is an extreme environment that presents the opportunity to examine the factors affecting microbial community structure across a number of environmental gradients. We have developed and utilized a novel assay that allows us to simultaneously determine the taxonomic composition of Archaea, Bacteria and microbial Eucarya in DNA extracted from environmental samples. Samples analyzed represent the epi-, meso- and bathy-pelagic zones of the ocean, which display gradients in temperature, pressure, oxygen content, nutrient content and photosynthetically available radiation.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1
  • Ice on Main Belt Comets

    Theoretical calculations shows that ice on main belt asteroids can survive within the shallow subsurface over the age of the solar system, if the surface of the body consists of dust-sized particles.

  • Formation of Planetesimals in a Dynamically Evolving Nebula

    The current model of the formation of planetesimals through gravitational instability cannot account for the growth of particles from a few mm to several cm in size. The shear-induced turbulence in such systems prevents small solid objects to accumulate and grow larger. The focus of this project is to show that the appearance of gas density/pressure enhanced regions will facilitate this process and speed up the growth of small solid objects.

  • Dynamical Evolution of Astroid Belt and the Parent Bodies of Iron Meteorites

    This project focuses on the study of the origin and mechanism of the delivery of the parent bodies of iron meteorites to the inner part of the asteroid belt. The goal of the project is to portray a comprehensive picture of the growth and scattering of meteorite parent bodies in the inner part of the solar system by studying the interactions among protoplanets and planetesimals, and the influence of a growing giant planet on the dynamics of these objects.

  • Diversity and Biogeography of the Unique Tropical Phylum Placozoa

    The following project employed molecular techniques, along with supplemental bioinformatics to: 1) Test whether placozoans are occupying the water column 2) Describe the diversity of placozoans found within sea tables at Kewalo Marine Lab as well as samples from an open water site off Isla Magueyes, Puerto Rico and test whether there is haplotype/clade overlap and 3) Determine if it is possible to capture more of the diversity than previous work by analyzing a more variable region on the mitochondrion

  • Chemistry of the NH3/H2O System

    Ammonia or ammonia hydrate has been reported to be present in the surfaces of some outer solar system icy bodies, such as, Saturn’s satellite Enceladus, Uranus’s satellite Miranda, Pluto’s satellite Charon, and Kuiper Belt Object (50000) Quaoar. We conducted a systematic study of the near-IR and mid-IR spectra of ammonia-water ices at various NH3/H2O ratios. These results are important for estimate the concentration of ammonia in the outer solar system ices.

  • Carbonate Lithologies on Devon Island, Canada

    During the 2007 field season at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) at Haughton Crater on Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada, we collected pale grey impactites (rocks affected by the meteor impact) at the Lake Trinity and Gemini Hills sites. These impactites contain clasts, pieces of the target rocks hit by the meteor. This work is relevant to astrobiology in that it could lead to a greater understanding of impacts with carbonate targets, and contribute to the debate on ALH 84001, the famous Martian meteorite.

  • A Search for Main Belt Comets in Pan-Starrs 1

    We are developing methods to search for Main Belt Comets (MBCs) in upcoming Pan-STARRS1 all-sky survey telescope data. MBCs, asteroids displaying weak cometary activity, are the solar system’s third known reservoir of water, and may be a source of water for the formation of terrestrial planets.

  • Acquisition and Installation of Witec Confocal Raman Microscope Scanning System

    We acquired the Witec Confocal Raman microscope scanning system with the help of the NAI because it provides a powerful tool to investigate the organic materials in primitive meteorites, comet samples, and interplanetary dust particles. These materials are the likely raw materials for life on Earth. The Raman system can also be used to investigate mineralogy of samples at a scale of a few microns and can produce mineral maps at a variety of scales. The intent was to have another state-of-the-art analytical tool to help catalyze collaborative research in astrobiology, cosmochemistry, astronomy, and the earth sciences.

  • Acquisition and Installation of a New Cameca Ims 1280 Ion Microprobe

    The University of Hawaii has acquired a state-of-the-art Cameca ims 1280 ion microprobe. It is housed in the W. M. Keck Cosmochemistry Laboratory (Gary R. Huss, Director), which concentrates on NASA sponsored research. In addition to working on astrobiology projects, scientists in the W. M. Keck Cosmochemistry laboratory work on samples returned by the Stardust and Genesis Missions, meteorites, interplanetary dust particles, lunar samples, and other samples of interest to people trying to understand the origin and history of the solar system. The ion microprobe has already shown itself to be a very useful analytical tool and is facilitating and catalyzing interdisciplinary research

  • The Effect of Lunar-Like Satellites on the Orbital Infrared Lightcurves of Earth-Analog Planets

    We have performed calculations that consider what an Earth-like planet with a large Moon would look like orbiting a distant star. Such observations may one day be possible with space based observatories such as NASA’s Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) mission.

  • Serpentinazation and Abiogenic Methane in the Mariana Forearc
  • Molecular Deuteration on Grain Surfaces

    n recent years, deuterium fractionation has been instrumental in deciphering the main chemical routes in molecular clouds. This fractionation reflects the small zero-point energy difference (a few hundred Kelvin) between deuterated species and fully hydrogenated species. At low temperatures, this can enhance the abundance of deuterium-bearing species by many orders of magnitude. In fact, recent observations of deuterated water have revealed that it is consistently less fractionated than other species by factors ranging from 10 to 100. Paralleling this, large deuterium fractionation effects are seen, most notably for deuterated forms of formaldehyde, methanol and ammonia versus their fully hydrogenated forms. Motivated by this, we have expanded our Monte Carlo accretion model to include deuterium chemistry in order to explore the role of grain surface chemistry in selectively deuterating ammonia and methanol as opposed to water.

  • Unveiling the Evolution and Interplay of Ice and Gas in Quiescent Clouds

    Molecular chemistry can provide insight into the physical processes at the earliest stages of starbirth, when molecular cloud cores collapse to form protostellar condensations. Dust particles in the dense clouds accrete molecules from the gas, resulting in the growth of ice mantles that eventually get transported into the protostellar environment. It is here, that the warm and dense environments of star forming regions promote a rich chemistry that creates complex prebiotic compounds and a small fraction of this ends up as planets. For these reasons, ice mantles in starless clouds (where harsh radiation does not affect the mantles) directly probe the dominant grain surface chemistry pathways and can be used as tracers of the origin of first generation ice molecules. This project is a comparative study of near-infrared, mid-infrared, and sub-millimeter spectral signatures of 35 discrete observations through the quiescent clouds LDN 673. Trends in the ice abundances can be studied exclusively as a function of cloud environment, such as the role of increasing extinction (dust column) in promoting grain surface chemistry.

  • Water on Mars

    We use orbital geochemistry and mineralogy, and meteorite studies, to characterize the role of water in the evolution of the Martian crust. We focus on water chemistry and abundance during aqueous alteration of crustal materials.

  • Origin of Irregular Satellites

    An interesting feature of the giant planets of our solar system is the existence of regions around these objects where no irregular satellites are observed. Surveys have shown that, around Jupiter, such a region extends from the outermost regular satellite Callisto to the vicinity of Themisto, the innermost irregular satellite. This project aims to understand the reason for the existence of such a satellite—void region by numerically integrating the orbits of several hundred small objects, distributed in a region between 30 and 80 Jupiter-radii.

  • Ultra-Violet Processing of Ices in the Rosette Nebula

    Dense clouds provide the natal molecular inventory for the formation of stars and planets. A serious caveat through is that the majority of the focus has been directed at clouds that are not analogous to the molecular cloud from which the solar nebula formed. The Sun formed in a high-mass star-forming cloud where at least one, and most likely manly, supernova event occurred resulting in intense ultra-violet radiation throughout the cloud complex. Understanding the nature of the material in our early solar nebula means understanding an environment dominated by massive stars. The Rosette molecular cloud provides the perfect laboratory analog for the early solar nebula molecular cloud. This project is a comparative study of the ultra-violet processing of the ices toward several embedded stellar clusters in the Rosette molecular cloud

  • Formation and Detection of Hot-Earth Objects in Systems With Close-In Jupiters

    The time of the transit of a planet can be altered by the perturbation of other (planetary) objects in the system. These alterations can be used to identify the presence of the perturbing bodies and are much larger when the perturber and the transiting object are in mean-motion resonances. This project is on mapping the parameter-space of a system of a hot-Jupiter and a terrestrial planet to identify regions where the tererstrial planet will produce the largest transit timing variations.

  • Ice at the Mars Phoenix Landing Site

    Models are used to simulate the history of ice at site where the Phoenix Lander touched down on Mars. This ice was emplaced during a very recent period of Mars history. The same models are also used to quantify the deposition of ice in laboratory simulations.

  • The Size Distribution of Small KBOs

    We are stacking ultra-deep images obtained using the wide-field Suprime-Cam imager on the Subaru telescope to measure the size distribution of small (~10 km) Kuiper Belt objects. Previous measurements of the size distribution have been limited to brighter magnitudes, but this survey exploits the sensitivity and wide field coverage of Suprime-Cam to reach a limiting magnitude >25 over a square degree, allowing us to study the distribution of very small objects.

  • Handbook of Star Forming Regions

    The Handbook of Star Forming Regions consists of two volumes of 1900
    pages that discuss what we know about the nearest star forming

  • Newborn Binaries

    Young binaries have orbital properties that still reflect their birth
    conditions. We have studied such binaries in two cases: deeply
    embedded newborn binaries still embedded in their nascent clouds and
    young binaries in the Orion Nebula Cluster.

  • Sediment-Buried Basement Deep Biosphere

    There is growing evidence that a substantial subseafloor biosphere extends throughout the immense volume of aging basement (basaltic rock) of the ocean crust. Since most ocean basement rock is buried under thick, impermeable layers of sediment, the fluids circulating within the underlying ocean basement are usually inaccessible for direct studies. Circulation Obviation Retrofit Kit (CORK) observatories affixed to Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) boreholes offer an unprecedented opportunity to study biogeochemical properties and microbial diversity in circulating fluids from deep ocean basement. UH-NAI post doctoral fellows (e.g., Brian Glazer, Andrew Boal)

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 3.3 4.1 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2
  • The Vysos Project

    The VYSOS project aims at surveying all the major star forming regions
    all across the entire northern and southern sky for variable young
    stars. Two small survey telescopes have been purchased and provide
    large area shallow observations, and two larger telescopes allow
    deeper more detailed observations. All observations are done

  • Recovery of Comet 85p/Boethin for the Deep Impact Extended Mission

    We developed new image stacking techniques to attempt to recover comet 85P/Boethin as a target for the NASA EPOXI mission (retargeting of the Deep Impact probe). We were unable to recover Boethin using many nights of observations from the CFHT, Subaru, VLT, and Gemini telescopes. We found one candidate, but it was not deemed certain enough to justify retargeting EPOXI. At the time of this writing, the object has not been recovered, suggesting it may have broken up.

  • Icelandic Subglacial Lakes

    This project is describing the microbial community inhabiting the water column of a subglacial volcanic lake in Iceland. These systems are potential analogs for habitats on ice-covered worlds such as the outer planet satellites, and Mars.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 4.1 5.3 6.2
  • Chemistry and Biology of Ultramafic-Hosted Alkaline Springs

    Ultramafic rock makes up Earth’s mantle and is an abundant material in the inner solar system. When water is added it converts to serpentinite, producing in the process H2 and, when CO2 is present, methane, both of which are ideal fuels for microbial activity. We are studying serpentinite mud volcanoes in the Mariana forearc, where water ascends from the subducting Pacific plate into the overlying mantle, producing large volumes of serpentinite that exhibits unusual fluid chemistry (e.g., pH 12.6) and extremophilic microbial activity, as an analog to extraterrestrial environments such as on Mars and the asteroids.

  • Mechanistical Studies on the Non-Equilibrium Chemistry of Unusual Carbon Oxide in Solar System Ices

    Higher carbon oxides of the form COn (n=3-8) have long been known as important molecules in atmospheric (Earth, Mars) and solid state chemical reactions. For instance, the CO3 molecule is considered as an important reaction intermediate in the atmospheres of Earth and Mars for quenching electronically excited oxygen atoms and in contributing to the anomalous 18O isotope enrichment. The geometry of the CO3 intermediate plays an important role in explaining these effects; however, only the cyclic (C2v) isomer has been experimentally confirmed prior to the project.

  • Formation of Molecular Hydrogen via Interaction of Ionizing Radiation With Hydrocarbon Ices in the Interstellar Medium

    In the interstellar medium, the formation of molecular hydrogen is still
    unresolved. Various production mechanisms have been proposed.
    These involve a) dissociative recombination of H3+ with an electron, b)
    formation on grain surfaces, and c) formation in ices via interaction of
    cosmic ray particles. Here, we are conducting laboratory experiment to
    investigate to what extent cosmic ray particles can form molecular
    hydrogen upon interaction with ice-coated interstellar grain particles.
    The formation routes to be elucidated can be also exported to ices in
    our Solar system.

  • A Supertree Analysis of the Metazoan Phylogeny

    Detailed knowledge of the phylogenetic relationships among the extant animal kingdom (Metazoa) and their eukaryotic relatives is critical for understanding the origin of complex life. Recently, the smallest known animal genome and the sole representative species of the phylum Placozoa was released. This genome, Trichoplax adhaerens, has allowed us to get insights into our understanding of how animal life evolved by addressing questions relating to the evolution of the basal metazoans.

  • Assessing the Likelihood of Supernova Impact of Protoplanetary Disks

    This project is investigating the origin, abundance, and distribution of short-lived radioisotopes in the early Solar System, and other planetary systems, possibly from massive stars. Specific focus is on Al-26 and Fe-60 as they played an important role in the early thermal evolution of planetesimals.

  • Amorphization of Crystalline Water Ice in the Solar System

    Our laboratory simulations show that crystalline water ice can never be completely turned into amorphous ice by cosmic rays or solar wind at temperature over 50K. Temperatures of most icy objects in the Solar System, including Jovian satellites, Saturnian satellites, and Kuiper Belt Objects, are equal to or above 50 K; this explains why water ice detected on those objects is mostly crystalline.

  • A Search for Primordial Water From Deep in the Earth’s Mantle

    This project is designed to provide information on the origin of Earth’s water. Comparing the isotopic composition of Earth’s primordial water (D/H ratio) with the ratios of other solar system objects can help to constrain possible sources of the water. The current ocean, other surface waters, and water in the upper mantle have experiences 4.5 billion years of geologic processing that has changed the original isotopic composition. By concentrating on rapidly quenched, under-gassed lavas from hot spots like Hawaii and Iceland, we hope to identify water that has not been through the extensive processing experienced by the surface water. Such a reservoir may have survived unaltered since shortly after the accretion of the Earth and thus may provide a better idea of the original composition of the Earth’s water.

  • A Spectroscopically Unique Main Belt Asteroid: 10537 (1991 RY16)

    We have discovered an asteroid with an optical and infrared spectrum that is unlike any other known asteroid. The discovery of this new type of asteroid spectrum allows the investigation of previously unstudied mineralogies and/or processes in the Solar Sytem.

  • Ecology of a Hawaiian Lava Cave Microbial Mat

    We have been studying a microbial biofilm (Figure 1) growing at very low light intensities and high temperature and humidity below the entrance of a lava cave in Kilauea Crater, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. (Figure 2)
    The cave presents an oligotrophic environment, but condensation of geothermally heated groundwater that vents at the rear of the cave has promoted the development of a complex microbial community, similar in higher order taxonomic structure to copiotrophic soil environments. Given the existence of lava tubes of similar geologic composition on Mars, geothermal activity there may have allowed the existence, or persistence, of complex microbial communities in similar Martian environments, wherein they would be shielded from the effects of harmful UV radiation.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1
  • FMARS Long Duration Mission: A Simulation of Manned Mars Exploration in an Analogue Environment, Devon Island, Canada

    Seven crewmembers spent four months at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) simulating a Mars surface exploration mission on Devon Island in the Canadian High Arctic. We carried out over twenty research projects in biology, geology, mission operations and human factors.

  • Formation and the Prospects of the Detection of Habitable Planets in Extreme Planetary Systems

    Many of extrasolar planetary systems contain multiple bodies with orbital characteristics unseen in our solar system (e.g. hot-Jupiters, and multiple giant planets and/or stellar companions on highly eccentric orbits). This project focuses on the possibility of the existence and formation of habitable planets in such extreme planetary systems.

  • Fu Orionis Eruptions

    FUor eruptions are major accretion events in the lives of young stars,
    probably in young binaries. These very rare events offer important
    insights into the mechanisms by which stars form and circumstellar
    disks evolve. We have studied two such recent cases in detail.

  • Ice Ages on Mars

    The subsurface ice reservoirs of Mars are being further characterized and incorporated into climate models.

  • Modeling Grain Surface Reaction Pathways for Large Organic Molecules

    Interstellar ices show a varied composition with distinct water-rich and inert components consisting of a variety carbon-bearing species. Hydrogenation and oxidation reactions are equally important on the grain surface and drive most of the chemistry that occurs. Reactions involving carbon monoxide on the grain surface are known to be the dominant chemical pathways to many organic species like methanol and formaldehyde. Astronomical observations suggest that the larger organic species like ethanol and acetaldehyde are linked through successive hydrogenation of CO. However, the formation pathways (on the grain surface) of larger molecules like acetaldehyde and ethanol which form via formaldehyde and the efficiency of these pathways have not been determined. This aim of this project is model the pertinent grain surface reaction in order to assess the effectiveness of CO hydrogenation as the main pathway to more complex organic species.

  • Sleeping Through the Arctic Martian Sol

    The Martian day is 24.6 hours long, and during the surface exploration phase, a Mars crew would have to operate on Martian time (unless the landing site is in a polar region). This slightly longer day has psychological, physiological, and operational repercussions. During the FMARS 2007 Long Duration Mission, all seven crewmembers operated on Mars time for 37 days, tracked changes in sleep quality and disruption using CASPER (Cardiac Adapted Sleep Parameter Electrocardiogram Recorder), and measured reaction speed and decision-making using cognitive tests.

  • The Main Belt Distribution of Basaltic Asteroids

    We have provided constraints on the distribution of basaltic asteroids in the main asteroid belt. Basaltic asteroids are fragments of larger bodies that reached high enough temperatures at the time of their formation that they melted and differentiated into a metallic core and a basaltic/silicate mantle and crust. This these asteroids trace the thermal processes that affected protoplanetary material during the epoch of planet formation in the Solar System.

  • Variable Young Stellar Objects Survey (VYSOS)

    VYSOS is designed as a survey for variable young stellar objects (protostars and early stars) along the galactic plane and for transiting planets. Out of the about 300 known extrasolar planets just 50 are passing in front of their host star (transits). These transiting planets are highly valuable in scientific terms, because in combination with spectroscopic follow-up observations the absolute values for planetary mass, radius and the geometry of the system can be given. This information allows more detailed follow-up observations by space-based telescopes in order to deduct the composition of the planetary atmosphere and search for prerequisites of life like water in these atmospheres.

    Transiting planets have triggered much theoretical research on planet formation and planetary systems within the past years. The spectrum of densities of planets is not yet fully understood, which has implications for theories about planetary formation as well as atmospheric models.