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2011 Annual Science Report

University of Hawaii, Manoa Reporting  |  SEP 2010 – AUG 2011

Executive Summary


Water is the medium in which the chemistry of all life on Earth takes place and is likely to be equally important for Astrobiology in general. Our research combines a set of interdisciplinary studies that range from the interstellar medium to the interior of planet Earth, all designed around “Water and Habitable Worlds”. Our 5-year plan includes the following research areas:

  • We don’t know where the water on Earth came from. It may have arrived trapped as gas adsorbed on dust grains as the planet accumulated mass, or it may have formed via chemical reactions on the early magma ocean, or water may have been delivered exogenously. Un-derstanding the relative roles of each source will require astronomical observations, ice laboratory experiments, chemical and dynamical models as well as geochemical observa-tions. The D/H ratio of Earth, including its bulk value in the mantle, crust, and hydrosphere, and its primordial value in the deep mantle, using rocks from the Hawai’i and Iceland mantle plumes and measurements of nominally anhydrous and hydrous phases synthesized in the laboratory and thought to be important reservoirs of water in the mantle;
  • We are exploring ice chemistry in our Solar System, using ultra-high vacuum, ultra-cold labo-ratory experiments, astronomical observations, and modeling to understand how primitive materials are processed as the system evolves, leading to life’s precursor molecules;
  • Main Belt Comets, as representatives of a novel class of icy bodies that may have contrib-uted water to Earth, represent a unique and accessible source of volatiles. We are using the new Pan STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala, Maui to discover members of this class, and then characterizing the activity, and physical properties of these bodies. This has lead to the de-velopment of an in-situ space mission concept.
  • Thermal and aqueous evolution of the parent bodies of primitive chondritic meteorites are being be investigated using the Cameca 1280 ion microprobe at UH to measure oxygen iso-topes and the daughter products of short-lived radionuclides, to elucidate the history of ices and water on these bodies that may have contributed the major amount of water to Earth;
  • We are exploring the microbial habitats in Earth’s sub-seafloor environments, along the mid-ocean ridge axis and flanks and in subduction zones, as likely analogues for extraterrestrial habitats for life on basaltic and ultramafic substrates, in our Solar System and beyond;
  • The VYSOS project telescopes in Hawai’i and Chile is surveying tens of thousands of young stars for a decade or longer, to understand how stars and planetary systems form and to search for newborn transiting planets;
  • Amino acid combinations and their effect on protein folding will be investigated, using theo-retical modeling to resolve why most terrestrial life uses a highly restricted set of only 20 amino acids;
  • We are creating a new, integrative knowledge framework for doing research in astrobiology, based on open XML standards, that will enable interdisciplinary collaboration, not only at UH but at the NAI as a whole.

The Team and Infrastructure

Personnel – During this reporting period we added three new graduate students, and 3 postdocs to our existing team of 3 graduate students and 8 postdoctoral fellows. One postdoc departed because he was hired into a permanent position. The changes include:

  • Mike Gowanlock – graduate student working with Rich Gazan on the AirFrame project
  • Melissa Illardo – graduate student working with Stephen Freeland on amino acids
  • Heather Kaluna – graduate student working on early solar system aqueous processes and MBC characterization with Karen Meech
  • Stephen Brotton – postdoc working with Ralf Kaiser on the nanoparticle project
  • James Stephenson – postdoc working with Stephen Freeland on the amino acid alphabet
  • Josh Walawender – postdoc, left to take a new faculty job at the Univ. of Hawai’i at Hilo.

A self-assessment of our team has shown that the interdisciplinary components of our research are successful largely as a consequence of our postdoc / Water hole experiment where the postdocs share an office environment. This is attached to our seminar room—the focus of group activities.

Awards – The first natural occurrence of a low-pressure CaAl2O4 mineral found in a rocky inclusion in a primitive meteorite has been named by the International Mineralogical Association as “krotite” in recognition of the cosmochemistry achievements of team member A. N. Krot. In July, UHNAI team member G. Jeffrey Taylor received the 2011 Shoemaker Distinguished Lunar Scientist Award for his contributions to the field of lunar science.

Infrastructure – The Keck Ice Chemistry Laboratory has been completed, and is now available as a user facility available to all within the NAI. One of their main goals within the framework of UHNAI is to investigate the formation and stability of astrobiologically important molecules in astrophysically relevant ices (ISM, KBOs, comets). For this, the main challenge is to prepare well-defined samples of the biomolecules (amino acids, DNA/RNA nitrogen bases) in water ice and to expose them to ioniz-ing radiation.

The Pan STARRS 1 survey telescope was commissioned in May 2010, and is in full survey operation. During this reporting period the PS1 staff have been working to optimize the survey strategy, data processing and calibration, and our team is working within this process to optimize our goals for main belt comet detection.

We have purchased equipment and set up a prototype 3D mini-cave environment for data visualiza-tion and are working to develop applications.

Space Seminar

A special seminar series entitled “Vision for Exploration Lecture Series” was offered during fall 2010 in honor of sabbatical visitor Kathrin Altwegg from Bern Switzerland The series featured talks about NASA and ESA astrobiology-related missions.

Visitor Program

When first becoming a member of the NAI, our team was able to secure use of an apartment in fac-ulty housing which we use to support our strong visitor program. We provide short to long-term visitor accommodations free of charge for collaborative exchange with team members and other NAI teams. In addition to research, the visitors contribute to our astrobiology seminar series. The following visitors made use of the facility during this reporting period:

  • Margaret Hartley – Aug. 7-Sep 11 – a researcher and the University of Edinburgh, Hartley joined our group to work in the Keck Cosmochemistry facility to begin to characterize the picrites collected from our Iceland fieldwork to investigate the isotopic composition of primi-tive terrestrial water. She also contributed to our outreach effort by sharing her experiences with a field visit during the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption in Iceland earlier in the year.
  • Steve Desch – Aug 17-Dec 4 – Desch, a CoI on the ASU team, joined us for the fall semester on sabbatical, supported in part by our team, ASU and NAI Central to work with a large cross section of our team related to water on the moon, early solar system aqueous processes, and Kuiper belt objects. Because of this wonderful opportunity, new long-term collabora-tions have begun between members of the UHNAI and ASU astrobiology teams including in particular work on water in geochemically evolved lunar samples, and water loss during lu-nar formation by giant impact.
  • Kathrin Altwegg – Oct 1-Nov 1 – Altwegg joined us on sabbatical from Bern Switzerland. She is a leading expert in mass spectrometry in space, specializing in comets, early solar system evolution and Earth’s water. She leads a mass spec team in Bern, and is the Project Manager of the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis – on the ESA Rosetta mission. She came to collaborate with team members on the development of our Discovery mission concepts. Additionally, in honor of her visit, we developed a special “Vision for Exploration Lecture Series” with talks about the NASA Discovery program, mass spectrometry in space, X-ray astronomy, and the Rosetta and Cassini-Huygens missions.
  • Mario Melita – Nov 20-30 – An astronomer from the Univ. of Buenos Aires came to begin a collaboration with team members studying the physical and observational dynamics of small solar system bodies, working primarily with team members Sarid and Meech.
  • Gianfranco Vidali – Dec 12-22 – A returning visitor from Syracuse University, Vidali came to work with team members Kaiser and Bennett using the ultra-high vacuum ice lab to study the formation of water via the implantation of protons in silicates.
  • Jan Amend – Jan 1-20 – Amend is a microbial geochemist specializing in thermodynamic modeling of redox potential of hydrothermal and other extreme habitats. Amend came to work with team members Cowen and Robador on modeling recently collected geochemical data from the deep sub-seafloor crustal environments, and to additionally teach in our as-trobiology graduate winter school.
  • Marc Buie – Jan 24-Feb 5 – Buie, a planetary astronomer from the Southwest Research Insti-tute, came to work with team member Meech on EPOXI and Deep Impact mission data sets.
  • Dieter Gerlich – Feb 7-26 – visited us from Charles University in the Czech Republic to work with our ice chemistry group. Gerlick is the leading the storage of nano particles under XUHV conditions in multipole traps. The major goal of his visit was to use our facilities to develop a new equipment proposal to be submitted to NASA; the major focus of this project is to set up a new nano particle trap and to study the formation of astrobiologically impor-tant molecules on ice coated nanoparticles.
  • Li-Hung Lin – Jul 20-29 – Lin joined us from the National Taiwan University. His current re-search focuses on the characterization of subsurface and hot spring microbial ecosystems through the combinations of analyses of aqueous, gas and isotope geochemistry, 16S rRNA genes, functional genes, fluorescence-labeled microscopic observation and cultivation. He integrates the results derived from such analyses to reveal the distribution, function, and as-semblage of microbial communities, and the factors that control the substrate availability and elemental cycling. One of his exciting field sites has been the deep South African gold mine, an extremely interesting analogue to the deep subseafloor basement habitat that our group works on.
  • Morris Podolak – Jul 31-Aug 15 – visiting from Tel Aviv, works on modeling processes in the early solar system, ranging from growth ice mantles on dust grains to formation of planets, came to collaborate with team member Haghighipour on dynamical models.
  • Chris McKay – Aug 3-5 – joined our team to participate in our Computational Astrobiology Summer School, and collaborate with team member Binsted on Mars analog environment sites in Hawaii.

Visitors planned for 2012 include Jim Cleaves (GA Tech) and Markus Merringer (Germany) to work on amino acid chemistry space project with S. Freeland, Thomas Orlando (GA Tech) to join us on his sabbatical to work with several team members in chemistry, astronomy and geophysics, Doug LaRowe (USC) to work with our oceanographers on thermodynamic modeling relevant to the deep sub-sea biosphere, Elke Pilat-Lohinger (Univ. Vienna) to work on extrasolar planet detection with N. Haghighipour, and A. Fitzsimmons (Queens Univ, N. Ireland) to work with team members on MBCs.

Science Accomplishments

One of our big interdisciplinary projects is looking at the origin of earth’s water, and this pro-ject saw a lot of activity this year, including new samples collected in Iceland during August 2011, characterization of a new class of objects in the main asteroid belt, the Main Belt Comets (MBCs), to development of a Discovery class mission to take an in-situ look at material which may have brought water to earth. The Pan STARRS 1 survey telescope is now fully operational, and it has discovered 2 new MBCs and various team members along with collaborators have undertaken vigorous observing campaigns to characterize these objects, accompanied by dynamical and thermal modeling. Team members are developing new, more sensitive strategies for searching for new MBCs within the PS1 data stream. Two of the objects reported as MBCs by the community this year were discovered in-stead to be the result of asteroid collisions, and our team has also lead many of these investigations.

Team members participated fully in the lead up to two NASA Discovery extended missions: the EPOXI and StardustNExT missions. The EPOXI flyby of comet 103P/Hartley 2 occurred on 4 Nov. 2010. Many of the UHNAI postdocs participated in the ground-based observing programs, in col-laboration with members of the Goddard team. Data were used to characterize the nucleus before encounter, to understand the rotation, size, and activity level for both gas and dust production. In total, our team coordinated the Earth-based observing campaign, encompassing more than 500 nights worldwide, using 51 telescopes from 10 countries. The StardustNExT mission utilized the Stardust spacecraft to fly back to the Deep Impact nucleus target, and the earth-based observing campaign was successful in predicting the time of encounter to allow the team to re-image the Deep Impact impact site.

The ice chemistry group has been very productive this year. In addition to completing the Keck Astrochemistry lab set up, some of their recent work has been challenging the conventional wisdom that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) require high-temperature reactions to form. Kaiser’s lab conducted experiments to show a pathway to growth at low temperatures typical of the cold interstellar medium environment. These molecules can form membrane-like boundary struc-tures, and are considered key players in astrobiological evolution. Other investigations have simu-lated the behavior of analogs to outer solar system icy surfaces under the effects of ionizing radia-tion as well as formation of astrobiologically interesting molecules in the interstellar medium.

Our team has remained extremely active in the area of small body observations (comets, centaurs, Kuiper belt objects). Through the network of observers established for the mission ob-serving campaigns, we now have access to a large number of collaborators and facilities in order to routinely observe bright to moderately faint small bodies. These observations are being used in combination with modeling, to understand the physical and chemical characteristics of individual targets and classes of objects. We have been designing a database that will enable easy access to data and data products for some of the class and long-term studies.

B. Reipurth has continued the development of the VYSOS astronomical survey facility on the Big Island, in order to understand the photometric variability of young sun-like stars and survy all the major star-forming regions across the entire northern and southern skies. The facility will be completed in 2011 and observing will begin in earnest.

There has been a lot of progress on understanding the chronology and duration of aqueous processes in the early solar system, and the heat sources for this alteration. In particular, our team has been working on oxygen isotope systematics to assess differences in primordial water in mete-orites that originated in different parent bodies. Some of this work has involved establishing a new protocol for isotopic dating methods. Other team members have been focusing on how and when water might have been delivered to Earth by examining aqueous processes on early Mars and water inventory on the through D/H measurements in Martian meteorites and lunar felsites.

In addition to lab work on meteorites, team members have completed simulations of the early evolution of icy planetesimals beyond the snow line and within Kuiper belt objects to under-stand the thermal and structural processes that affect the planetesimals because this has strong implications for planet formation. We are continuing to make progress in understanding the distri-bution and survivability of water ice in the solar system. With a new collaboration with ASU sab-batical visitor S. Desch, our group has done the first quantitative study of the loss of volatiles from the proto-lunar disk, and this new research direction is now folding in to the Origin of Earth’s water research. Team members now have a vastly improved understanding of the deposition and survival of Mars ground ice, and this is leading to the development of a new field project in Hawaii looking at tropical permafrost on Mauna Kea.

Team members have been combining information about the early solar system as obtained from studies of meteorites with dynamical simulations to understand how the planets accumulated and specific details of the process in the vicinity of gas giant envelopes. Dynamical studies have ex-tended to extra-solar planetary systems, and team members have been collaborating with other teams to target discovery of terrestrial planets within the habitable zones of M-dwarf stars.

Our biogeochemical group has now developed critical infrastructure at UH (including the new Center of Dark Energy Biosphere Investigation), partly enabled by UHNAI, which allows them to collect large volume of water from the basement biosphere in order to establish the microbial geo-chemical parameters of the biosphere. In support of the teams work, progress has been made in developing a new suite of instrumentation for sampling. Team members participated in a 2-week research cruise to explore the deep biosphere below the Juan de Fuca Ridge, and have been charac-terizing the microbial respiration activity. We are broadening our involvement with other team members (evolutionary biology) and hoping to make linkages now back to the Mars surface for bi-omarkers.

Excellent progress has been made in identifying factors that determine why terrestrial life is using the amino acids that it does. This is leading to some interesting discussions and possible col-laborations with the deep sub-seafloor work on the rare biosphere. One of our graduate students has taken his chemical expertise combined with the UHNAI interdisciplinary exposure is now work-ing on a project of looking at enantiomeric excesses in meteorites by using Raman spectroscopy to look at the distribution of organics in meteorites. He is investigating the role that early solar system aqueous alteration may play in the enantiomeric excesses.

Finally, in order to expose the interdisciplinary roots and applications of astrobiology, we’re developing the Astrobiology Integrative Research Framework (AIRFrame). During this year team members Lisa Miller and Rich Gazan mined the database consisting of the NAI 2009 annual report. Realizing that that the field is too complex for our users to approach using just the mined informa-tion, our team has been evaluating the use of machine learning techniques to create multiple ways to present the data so that it will be accessible to researchers so that they will be able to use AIR-Frame to discover and integrate existing knowledge, data sets and terminology from disciplines be-yond their own.

Educational and Public Outreach and Graduate Training Activities

The Hawai’i team was very active in the area of Education and Public Outreach. We have a good mix of formal and informal education activities, including university level courses and seminars, stu-dent and teacher summer school programs, as well as public activities.

Middle and High School Programs – We offered our student teacher summer residence program, HISTAR (Hawaii Student Teacher Astronomy Research) from June 2-8, 2011 wherein teachers and middle-high school students worked with astronomer mentors to develop skills necessary for con-ducting original research projects suitable for entry in school science fairs. Out of the 7 teams pre-senting projects at the end of the residence program, over half were related to astrobiology (Main-belt comets, Venus-Terra’s hotter twin, Asteroid classification, and solar flares and life). Our ALI’I summer teacher program for professional development for secondary science teachers was hosted at the University of Hawaii from July 7-13, 2011. Associated with the preparation for the summer program were numerous workshops across the islands. These programs are leading to well-received astrobiology projects in the annual Hawaii State Science Fairs.

Programs for the Public – Our team participated with astrobiology activities lead by K. Binsted at the Physics open house in November 2010. On April 10, 2011 the Institute for Astronomy held its an-nual Open House event, which was attended by over 850 people, and the UHNAI contributed sev-eral activities. Team members gave public lectures that were relevant to astrobiology, including: “Oddball Snowballs: Discovery of the Main-Belt Comets” (Henry Hsieh), “The Birth of the Solar Sys-tem” (Jonathan Williams), “Space Missions and Comets” (Karen Meech), and “Visits to Earth? UFOs” (Tobias Owen). In addition, we had an Astrobiology exhibit, including posters, brochures, and a hands-on “microbial mat slime cave”, and an undersea extremophile “touch tank”, as well as a hands-on comet making demonstration, utilizing 1000 lbs of ice. In addition, some of our HISTAR students showed off astrobiology-related posters that had place in the Hawaii Science Fair competition.

Comet making tent and UHNAI Astrobiology exhibit at the IfA April 10, 2011 open house.

Children learning about comets as they get their hands dirty constructing their own “dirty snowballs”. Many kids had never touched snow before.

Kids exploring the UHNAI simulated deep sea extreme biological environment.

Undergraduate astrobiology students helping at the astrobiology exhibit – explaining about microbial mats.

Student astrobiology posters from the State Science Fair on exhibit at the open house, with students and mentors presenting the science to the public.

Public Evening Lecture & Other Public Talks – Sabbatical visitor Steven Desch along with team mem-bers Karen Meech, Jeff Taylor, and Steve Freeland Participated in a “Frontiers of Astronomy” community event on Nov. 17, 2010 that drew in 300 from the public in a forum featuring the astrobiology theme of “What are Odds of Intelligent Life and Civilization in the Galaxy?” The event “Who wants to be a One –in-a-Million-Aire” was patterned after a popular game show. Desch hosted the event, presenting the context of the Drake equation, and soliciting audience response to determine the value of the factors in the equation. Participants were able to get help from the expert panel of astrobiologist along the way.

Community event held on Nov. 17, 2010 discussing the Drake Equation. This was a collaboration between ASU team member Steve Desch and the UHNAI team while Desch joined us during his sabbatical.

AstroCoffee – Team member G. Sarid has been working with colleagues at the Institute for Astron-omy to present “Astrocoffee” each Friday at 10:30am, where brief scientific overviews of recent re-search are presented to the faculty and staff. Many of the presentations have been organized to include Astrobiology research.

Virtual Field Trip Collaboration – We have begun to collaborate with the ASU team to develop 2 vir-tual field trip web-based educational tools – one on the origin of Earth’s water, and the other on volcanism – a comparison between hot spot volcanoes in Hawaii, Iceland, Yellowstone and Mars.

Astrobiology Courses – The UHNAI team continued our Astrobiology seminar each semester, high-lighting team research. Additionally, an undergraduate astrobiology course taught by K. Meech, and a graduate seminar on star and planet formation taught by B. Reipurth were offered. S. Freeland gave a special seminar on evolution, and set up a grant-writing seminar for our postdocs and gradu-ate students to help prepare them to write their own funding requests. We are progressing with the development of an Astrochemistry/Astrobiology interdisciplinary graduate program.

Computational Astrobiology Summer School (CASS) – From August 1-12 our graduate summer train-ing program was held in Honolulu. Established as an opportunity for graduate students in computer science and related areas to expand their knowledge of astrobiology while applying their computa-tional skills toward substantial projects that solve real-world challenges faced by astrobiology re-search scientists. The program has two parts – the first is a 2-week on-site program that is an inten-sive survey of astrobiology, introducing participants to the field, and to begin discussion of how computational tools can benefit astrobiology research. Upon return to their institutions, students work on their projects under sponsorship of a local mentor, and in collaboration with NAI team members. This summer, the theme of the workshop was to set up a 3D mini-CAVE virtual reality environment, and to start to develop applications for that environment. Projects that we hope to develop in the CAVE following the program include (1) in collaboration with the GA Tech team a model of early ribosomal proteins using reduced amino acid alphabets, and (2) rendering some of the EPOXI mission comet flyby data in 3D to study rotation, comet outgassing jets and particle mo-tions near the nucleus. All of the CASS participants will be given partial support to present their re-sults at a scientific conference.

UH-Nordic Graduate Winter and Summer Schools – At 1.5 year intervals, in collaboration with the Nordic Astrobiology Network, the UH NAI team host winter schools and summer schools in astrobi-ology for graduate students and early career astrobiologists. The UH-Nordic Astrobiology Winter Educational program was held Jan. 3-16, 2011 in Hawai’i. We had 120 applicants for 40 positions, and received an excellent group of graduate students and early career researchers.

UH-Nordic Winter School Applicants

There was wide interest from the interdisciplinary community in our graduate winter school, and the program covered a wide distribution of topics.

We had 39 attendees (and one last minute cancellation). We had 27 graduate students and 12 early career postdocs split between 21 males (54%) and 18 females (46%). The research fields were dis-tributed roughly equally between astronomical sciences (blues), Chem/Geochem/Geology (reds), and Biology (greens) as shown in the figure. Twenty-five (65%) participants were from US institutions, 4 from Nordic countries, 5 from Europe (UK, Germany, Italy), and 5 from elsewhere (Australia, Brazil, Chile, Russia, Canada.

Participants were recruited via a poster developed at IfA and distributed widely by mail and at meetings, by newsletter, and email advertisement. Applications were submitted via an online data-base by May 30, 2010, and reviewed by committee, with notification in August 2010.

The workshop venue was split between 3 science areas and locations: the Institute for Astronomy in Hilo (astronomy; housing in the Hilo Naniloa hotel); the Hawai’i Volcanos park (geology; Kilaeua Military Camp) and at the UH Marine Biology facility on Coconut island Oahu (biology). The pro-gram consisted of 56 different topical sessions, and included lectures, discussions, labs, field excur-sions, and a variety of interactive activities. The research experience component involved shifting to partial night time observing using the remote observing facilities at IfA Hilo for the NASA Infrared Telescope and the UH2.2m telescope, as well as the Faulkes telescope on Maui. Observing was scheduled in ~2 hr blocks for teams of 2; other participants had a selection of 4-5 activities after the evening poster sessions ranging from topical discussions, data analysis, use of the portable planetar-ium, etc. One of the evening sessions lead by UHNAI postdoc G. Sarid focused on the Drake equa-tion. Since the winter school he has been leading a discussion group from among the participants to develop a paper on new more modern ways to formulate the Drake equation. Excursions to the Mauna Kea facilities, the Imiloa planetarium, and the geology and live lava flows in the volcano Na-tional Park as well as the ice chemistry and ion microprobe facilities were also part of the program.

We had an excellent collection of invited speakers and program staff and support, drawn from both the UH system and from other NAI teams and Nordic Network collaborators, as shown in the table below. Many of the speakers stayed for several days in order to take part in the discussions and interact interact one on one with the participants. The total person-effort to put into the program develop-ment, logistics and execution came to 1.3 FTE.

Post-event participant evaluation showed that the logistics and program content were exceptional, and offered some constructive comments on improvements for future programs. Comments:

“I specifically came to learn about topics outside of my field of expertise (astronomy, astrochemistry). I’ve been exposed to bits and pieces before, but this is the first time I’ve ever been able to place that info in the proper context. The intro material presented here has been absolutely critical for generating a framework of reference for me. (astrochemistry)

“This has been a stupendous experience, beautifully orchestrated, and wonderfully diverse in experiences and dissemination of ideas. Fantastic people! “ (geochemistry)

Plans are now underway for the next program – to be held in Iceland during July 2012.

International Collaboration

Our participation with the Nordic Network of Astrobiologists has strengthened, and our mutual pro-grams helped them secure some major new funding from Sweden to continue their work. The goal of the Nordic network is to promote research in astrobiology in Nordic countries, and foster collabo-ration in research, education and E/PO within the network, and to the international community. During January 2011 a team of students and faculty came to Hawai’i for a joint Hawai’i –Stockholm mini symposium on Astrobiology.

Meetings and Workshops

Our team sponsored astrobiology-related workshops during this period, including

  • The 5th workshop on “Titan Chemistry – Observations, Experiments, Computations, and Modeling,” held on Kauai April 11-14, 2011. Saturn’s moon Titan is the only solar system body besides Earth and Venus with a thick atmosphere and solid surface and is widely con-sidered as a natural planetary-scale laboratory to understand prebiotic chemistry on proto-Earth. The workshop brought together atmospheric modelers, observers, mission specialists, planetary scientists, physical chemists, theoreticians, astrobiologists and organic chemists to seek emerging generalized concepts on the chemical processing of hydrocarbon-rich atmos-pheres of planets and their moons. By exploring the current boundaries of planetary science and chemical knowledge, we can more effectively design new laboratory experiments and recommend promising directions for future observations and upcoming Solar System mis-sions to resolve unanswered aspects of molecular synthesis in our Solar System.
  • The UHNAI team held a science retreat from June 8-10, 2011 for 2.5 days on West Oahu. The goal of the all-hands general science meeting, involving 31 team members, was to foster interdisciplinary connections and provide a mid-CAN assessment of deliverables and accom-plish some strategic planning for the future, including involvement with international part-ners, fund-raising, E/PO portfolio, and discuss collaboration with other teams.
  • Planning for “Origins of Earth Water II” workshop to be held in Iceland, Sept. 4-11, 2011.
  • Planning for “Formation of the First Solids in the Solar System”, to be held Nov 7-9, 2011, Kauai Hawaii.
  • Planning for a special astrobiology science symposium to be held at the International Gen-eral Assembly in Aug. 2012, lead by N. Haghighipour.

Flight Mission Involvement

In collaboration with the Jet Propulsion laboratory, Ball Aerospace and the Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research, UHNAI team members lead by K. Meech and drawing upon an interdiscipli-nary team from the departments of Astronomy, Oceanography, and from the Hawaiian Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, have developed a NASA Discovery mission concept to rendezvous with a main belt comet using an ion propulsion system a state of the art mass spectrometer and an imager and dust analyzer. The mission goals are to (1) provide new knowledge of the history of water in our solar system, (2) contribute to the understanding of the proto-planetary disk structure and dynamics and the location of the snow line, (3) and explore a new class of objects in the main belt.