Highlights for 11/06/09, 13 & 20

star cluster
star cluster

Scott Sandford (Astrophysics Branch)

A web feature on the abiotic production of the nucleobase uracil was posted at http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/uracil.html on November 6. This web feature summarizes work done at that Astrochemistry Laboratory at NASA-Ames that was reported in a recent issue of the journal Astrobiology.

Since its appearance, the web story has been picked up by a multitude of other sites, including those at National Public Radio, Astrobiology.com, Portal to the Universe, Space Weekly, ESA, Twitter, Science Daily, USA Today, and The Huffington Post.

Christopher McKay (Planetary Systems Branch)

Mera Horn is currently working with me on the effect of salts, especially perchlorate, on rock fracturing on Mars. She is working at Ames and UC Berkeley funded through the EA program. Next year she plans to become a full time graduate student at UCB working with Professor Hari Dharan of the Mechanical Engineering Department. (see pdf attached)

Jennifer Heldmann (Planetary Systems Branch)

Slurries Of Mud May Have Flowed In Martian Gullies. The Australia Broadcasting Corporation (11/2, Catchpole) reports, “Martian water most likely flowed as slurries of mud rather than trickling streams, according to a recent NASA report.” Jennifer Heldmann of the Ames Research Center analyzed pictures of the Terra Sirenum and the Centauri Montes regions of Mars, comparing them to similar patches of gully deposits in the Atacama Desert in South America. “This data revealed the light tone was caused by the difference in the size of the particles in the mudflows compared to the coarser-grained surrounding terrain.” Scientists “say this indicates the best way to look for water on Mars is not to look for differences in the composition of the sediments, but in the size of the particles.

– Icarus publication:
Heldmann, J.L., Conley, C.A., Brown, A.J., Fletcher, L., Bishop, J.L., and C.P. McKay, Possible Liquid Water Origin for Atacama Desert Mudflow and Recent Gully Deposits on Mars, Icarus, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2009.09.013 (2009).

– Radio interview with Dave Schlom regarding LCROSS on Northstate Public Radio, KCHO, 91.7 and KFPR, 88.9 FM (November 3, 2009).

– Mentor for student team from the Lego Robotics Club in Haslett, Michigan (sponsored by MSU College of Engineering), competing the FIRST Lego League Smart Move competition and working on a project related to LCROSS.

– Girl Scout Day at the SETI Institute: giving a talk on Planetary Science and helping mentor the students during afternoon science activities (November 7, 2009).

Jeff Moore (Planetary Systems Branch)

Has been informed that the following paper is now in press: “Laboratory Simulations of Mars Evaporite Geochemistry” Jeffrey Moore, Mark Bullock, Horton Newsom, Melissa Nelson
Journal of Geophysical Research -Planets 2008JE003208R

Jeff Scargle (Planetary Systems Branch)

Jeff Scargle attended the first Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope Symposium in Washington DC. His presentation Photon Propagation in Causal Sets Using Feynman Path Integration described joint work with Slonodan Simic of the Mathematics Department of San Jose State University.

Jack Lissauer (Planetary Systems Branch)

The Kepler project submitted over two dozen articles describing various aspects of the mission and early science results to The Astrophysical Journal Letters and Science Magazine on November 15. Publication of these articles is expected early in 2010.

Colin Goldblatt (Planetary Systems Branch/NASA Post Doc)

Presented at Ohlone College’s annual ‘NASA Night’ talk on Astrobiology Tuesday last week. There was a full 400-seat auditorium with people standing watching on a TV screen outside. I think the talk was well received (see below), both with the audience and with the organizers.

Info on the event: