The Astrochemistry Laboratory hosted an informative, hands-on, booth at Yuri’s Education Day held on April 8, 2011 at NASA Ames. Astrochemistry volunteers (Christiaan Boersma, Emma Yates, Joe Roser, Nathan Bramall, Cesar Contreras, Rachel Mastrapa Amanda Cook, Andrew Mattioda, Scott Sandford, Michel Nuevo, Chris Materese, Doug White, Ryan Walker and Yvonne Ibarra) demonstrated how scientists use spectroscopy or light in the search for life in the Universe. Students were allowed hands-on access to several instrument concepts under development in the laboratory for Astrobiology missions. These concepts focus on Ultra-Violet (UV) induced fluorescence in astrobiologically interesting molecules, allowing them to be easily identified on either a planet’s surface or in subsurface soils. After a short demonstration on fluorescence and spectroscopy, students used a remote controlled rover, equipped with a UV source and wireless camera, to move across a Mars landscape identifying signs of alien life. The visitor’s were also given a peak below the surface of Mars via a UV fluorescence penetrometer system. Penetrometers are direct push instruments that allow scientific exploration of subsurface soils. Both instrument concepts proved to be extremely popular with the students, with most people waiting in line to see the rover move across the Martian landscape or to gain a glimpse of the possible life below the Martian surface.
For additional information please contact Andrew Mattioda (Ext. 41075).