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2007 Annual Science Report

NASA Ames Research Center Reporting  |  JUL 2006 – JUN 2007

Prebiotic Organics From Space

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

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

    Louis Allamandola Louis Allamandola
    Charles Apel

    Max Bernstein

    Jamie Cook

    Scott Sandford

    Charles Bauschlicher

    David Deamer

    Jason Dworkin

    Murthy Gudipati

    Andrew Mattioda

    Richard Zare

    Objective 1.1
    Models of formation and evolution of habitable planets

    Objective 3.1
    Sources of prebiotic materials and catalysts

    Objective 3.4
    Origins of cellularity and protobiological systems

    Objective 4.3
    Effects of extraterrestrial events upon the biosphere

    Objective 7.1
    Biosignatures to be sought in Solar System materials

    Objective 7.2
    Biosignatures to be sought in nearby planetary systems