Highlights for 04/03/09

star cluster
star cluster

Scott Sandford (Astrophysics Branch / SSA):

Scientists from NASA-Ames’ Astrochemistry Laboratory, Scott Sandford, Stefanie Milam, and Michel Nuevo, were coauthors on a paper entitled “The impact and recovery of asteroid 2008 TC3” that appeared in the 26 March 2009 issue of Nature. The paper’s authors describe the discovery of a small asteroid, 2008 TC3, on 6 October 2008, the subsequent collision of the asteroid with the Earth over North Africa, and the later collection of 47 of the meteorites resulting from the explosion of the asteroid in the Earth’s atmosphere. Portions of the meteorite, now officially named ‘Almahata Sitta’, were analyzed in several laboratories around the world, including Ames’ Astrochemistry Laboratory. The meteorite was shown to be a somewhat anomalous example of a relatively rare type of achondrite called a polymict ureilite. The combined asteroid and meteorite reflectance spectra identify the asteroid as a spectral “Class F” object, now firmly linking this class of asteroid to dark, carbon-rich ureilites.

Andrew Mattioda (Astrophysics Branch / SSA):

On Friday, March 27, 2009, Dr. Andrew Mattioda conducted a tour of the Astrophysics and Astrochemistry Laboratory for Professor Edmund Wilson, Harding University, Searcy, AR, and two undergraduate students. Dr. Wilson is a member of the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium, a NASA EPSCoR program. The students were given a presentation of the abundance of organic matter in the universe and its implications in the origins of life. This is the fifth year Dr. Wilson has brought students out to tour the Astrophysics and Astrochemistry laboratory. As Dr. Wilson stated “It really means a lot for these young people to meet people doing cutting edge research and see the possibilities they might have as they plan their careers.”

Farid Salama (Astrophysics Branch / SSA):

Dr. Salama (SSA), chair of the AAS Working Group on Laboratory Astrophysics (WGLA), has co-authored a white paper for the Space Studies Board (SSB) of the National Academies on “The Role and Scope of Mission-Enabling Activities in NASA’s Space and Earth Science Missions”.

Jennifer Heldmann (Planetary Systems Branch / SST on detail to HQ)

Studies Show Phoenix Landed In “Microbe-Friendly” Location. In his column for Space.com (3/31), Leonard David reports, “Evidence is building that NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander plopped down on a microbe-friendly location.” At the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference last week, Carol Stoker of the Ames Research Center “valued the Phoenix landing site as having a higher potential for life detection than any site previously visited on Mars. Moreover, the icy material that was sampled might periodically be capable of sustaining modern biological activity.” Suzanne Young of Tufts University also announced that results from the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer showed no substances “detrimental to all microbe life” at the site. “Young agreed that a repeat landing by a spacecraft near the northern polar region is warranted.”

Jeff Scargle (Planetary Systems Branch / SST):

Jeff Scargle (SST) has become a full member of the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope project team. He was previously an Affiliated Scientist, with limited data access, but now has all rights and privileges associated with the team. Fermi was known as the Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) before launch and check-out.

Ross Beyer (Planetary Systems Branch / SST):

I attended the LPSC meeting in Houston, TX last week, and was a co-author on these three abstracts:

Hancher, M. D.; Beyer, R.; Broxton, M.; Gorelick, N.; Kolb, E.; and Weiss-Malik, M. 2009. Visualizing Mars Data and Imagery with Google Earth. 40th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, (Lunar and Planetary Science XL), held March 23-27, 2000 in The Woodlands, Texas http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2009LPI….40.2308H

Milazzo, M. P.; Keszthelyi, L. P.; Jaeger, W. L.; Rosiek, M.; Mattson, S.; Verba, C. A.; Beyer, R. A.; Geissler, P. E.; McEwen, A. S.; and Hirise Team. 2009. The Distribution of Columnar Lavas on Mars as Seen by HiRISE. 40th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, (Lunar and Planetary Science XL), held March 23-27, 2000 in The Woodlands, Texas http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2009LPI….40.2159M

Chuang, F. C. and Beyer, R. A. 2009. Modification of Martian Slope Streaks. 40th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, (Lunar and Planetary Science XL), held March 23-27, 2000 in The Woodlands, Texas. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2009LPI….40.2104C

Robert Haberle (Planetary Systems Branch / SST):

Comment from Sandy Dueck, NAI Education & Public Outreach Lead

I am the education and public outreach (EPO) lead for the NAI Ames Team. I was tasked by NAI Central to host a lecture series on the NASA Digital Learning Network that focuses on Ames Astrobiology post-docs. Your post-doc Colin Goldblatt was today’s speaker. (4/1/09)

The purpose of this lecture series (today’s was 3 out of 5) is to inspire middle school through high school students toward careers at NASA, and to encourage students to stay in school and study science, technology, engineering and math.

Colin’s lecture today was by far THE BEST that has been delivered to date. There were more questions asked by students than ever before. Questions were even asked of Colin after the lecture was over, by staff members who run the digital learning network at both Ames and JPL. It was truly a learning experience for everyone!

Thank you for allowing Colin to participate in EPO activities for our team. He has a true gift for taking complicated subject matter and making it easy to understand, and for making it truly interesting and relatable to students’ everyday lives.

Colin is a true inspiration and I look forward to working with him again!

David Summers (SETI Institute / Exobiology Branch):

Paper published March 27, 2009: David P. Summers, Juan Noveron & Ranor C. B. Basa, Energy Transduction Inside of Amphiphilic Vesicles: Encapsulation of Photochemically Active Semiconducting Particles, Orig. Life Evol. Biosp. 39(2009)127-140