2007 Annual Science Report
NASA Ames Research Center Reporting | JUL 2006 – JUN 2007
Prebiotic Organics From Space
We approached two major milestones in the IR spectroscopy of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). First, we are making a database of our world unique collection of PAH mid-IR spectra under deep space conditions. This is the spectral collection upon which the interstellar PAH model is based. The database/web user interface should be ready to beta-test by the end of 2007. We have one publication in PNAS this year on unique, closed-shell charged PAH clusters. The popular press publicized this work. Another paper that presents the IR properties of PAH ions in water ice analogs of interstellar and cometary ices is in press.
We published paper in The Astrophysical Journal that describes amino acid production in cosmic ice analogs. The samples were analyzed at Goddard as part of our cross team collaborative efforts. Also, our findings that doubly charged large PAH ions can be produced in water ice with low energy photons has been published and we have yet another paper in-press on the biogenic compounds produced by the vacuum ultraviolet photolysis of anthracene in water ice. This paper discusses the connection between these photoproducts and meteoritic organics.
Scott Sandford, is CoI on the Stardust mission. He has been intimately involved with sample extraction, distribution, and analysis. Scott is the team leader of the Organics Preliminary Examination Team. Cometary organics have substantially higher contents of oxygen and nitrogen than meteorites. This was published in Science. A more detailed report will appear in Meteoritics and Planetary Science. Scott is also on the Stardust sample allocation subcommittee of CAPTEM (Curation and Analysis Planning Team for Extraterrestrial Materials).
We have also received an Astrobiology DDF grant to develop the concept of a lander/rover deployable Organic Surveyor based on UV induced Luminescence
PROJECT INVESTIGATORS:Louis Allamandola
PROJECT MEMBERS:Charles Apel
RELATED OBJECTIVES:Objective 1.1
Models of formation and evolution of habitable planets
Sources of prebiotic materials and catalysts
Origins of cellularity and protobiological systems
Effects of extraterrestrial events upon the biosphere
Biosignatures to be sought in Solar System materials
Biosignatures to be sought in nearby planetary systems