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2014 Annual Science Report

University of Hawaii, Manoa Reporting  |  SEP 2013 – DEC 2014

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. Understanding the relative roles of each source will require astronomical observations, ice laboratory experiments, chemical and dynamical models as well as geochemical observations. 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 will be measured;
  • We are exploring ice chemistry in our Solar System, using ultrahigh vacuum, ultra-cold laboratory 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 contributed 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 are then characterizing the activity, and physical properties of these bodies. This has lead to the development 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 isotopes and the daughter products of shortlived 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 will be 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 theoretical 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 four postdocs departed for new positions:

  • Hsin-Fang Chiang, working with Bo Reipurth on Star formation.
  • Patricia Doyle, working with Sasha Krot left at the end of May 2014 to take up a new “Scarce Skills” Postdoctoral Fellowship from the South African National Research Foundation at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Lydia Hallis, working with Gary Huss, Jeff Taylor and Karen Meech, left in April 2014 to accept a Marie Curie Fellowship in Scotland; but she continues a close collaboration with the team.
  • James Stephenson, working with Stephen Freeland on bioinformatics related to the origin of life, left in January 2014, accepting a position as a postdoctoral scholar at the NASA Ames Research Center.
  • Timm Riesen, a former UHNAI postdoctoral fellow left Hawaii during March 2014 to take up his position at the University of Bern, Switzerland as the new director of the observatory associated with the Center for Space and Habitability. The observatory will be used remotely for education in Swiss schools.

One graduate student, Patrick Gasda, defended his thesis (“The Aqueous Alteration of Carbon-Bearing Phases in CR Carbonaceous Chondrites) in November 2014 and obtained a postdoc position at Los Alamos National Lab working on the Curiosity rover ChemCam instrument. Four other students (Mike Gowanlock, Christy Jilly, Heather Kaluna and Katherine Robinson) are scheduled to defend in 2015.

Awards – Several of our team members have won awards during this reporting period:

  • PI Karen Meech was awarded the Institute for Astronomy Director’s Research Excellence award on 21 November, 2013.
  • A paper authored by E. Petigura, A. Howard (UHNAI CoI) and G. Marcy on the prevalence of Earth-sized planets around habitable stars was awarded the Cozzarelli Prize from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). This was one of 6 papers to receive the prize out of 3800 research articles.
  • In April 2014, Co-I Andrew Howard was awarded the University of Hawaii Regents’ Medal for excellence in research for his work exploring the composition, formation history and diversity of extrasolar planets.
  • In July 2014, CoI Svetlana Berdyugina was nominated by the Leibniz Association in Germany for the L’OREAL-UNESCO award for women in science for her work on polarization and extrasolar planets.
  • Former UHNAI postdoc has had asteroid 9723 Binyang named after her to recognize her contributions to small body studies and astrobiology.


HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, is a small habitat that is located at a Mars analog site in the saddle area of the Island of Hawaii. It is a venue for conducting research relevant to long-duration human space exploration, in particular studying the human factors that contribute to astronaut crew function and performance during long-duration space travels, such as those that will be necessary for a mission to Mars. During this reporting period Mission 2 was completed (4 mo), and an 8-month long Mission 3 began in November. The habitat, located at 8,000 feet elevation an an abandoned quarry of Mauna Loa is a 36’ geodesic dome, with about 1000 square feet of floor space over two stories. It is a low-impact temporary structure which can accommodate six crewmembers, and has a kitchen, a laboratory, and a flexible work space. While not developed with UHNAI, funds, the existence of our team was instrumental in helping secure the necessary funding for the habitat, and we envision that this will be used for future field research.

The UHNAI team has launched a new, modern website, which integrates facebook and Twitter links, and is mobile-friendly. Driven by WordPress, team members will be able to maintain and manage their own web content.

Science Accomplishments

Primitive Solar System Bodies – Our team has also continued a vigorous program of research on primitive solar system bodies – looking at volatile organic chemistry in collaboration with the GSFC team, and how volatiles are distributed in the early solar system. In particular, with the discovery that there are many inactive and marginally active comets on long-period comet orbits and that these may provide strong constraints to dynamical models of solar system formation, we have undertaken a new large program to characterize their surfaces. Our group lead and observing campaign to investigate the dynamically new comet ISON on its inbound journey, and were among the first to understand its major chemical drivers of activity. Several papers exploring main belt comet properties were produced during this period.

Origin and Isotopic Composition of Water on Earth, Moon, Mars – To understand both where water was in the early solar nebula our team has been investigating aqueous processes in Chondrites, which preserve the earliest solar system signatures. This is related to a program to look for the signature of aqueous processes on asteroid surfaces, and to understand the effects of space-weathering. One of our big interdisciplinary projects is looking at the origin of earth’s water, and understanding the sources of terrestrial water is a test for planetary accretion models. We have investigated this through several fronts both looking at the amount of water that could be contained within nominally anhydrous mantle minerals, and by measuring the D/H ratio in mantle plume materials, in meteorites from Mars and from lunar samples. During the past year our deep mantle work has focused on investigating H solubility in minerals present in the lower mantle by synthesizing these minerals at high pressure and temperature and analyzing these samples in the cosmochemistry laboratory. For the Earth, our data suggests that an isolated water reservoir with a low D/H ratio exists in the deep mantle. Finally, we investigate the distribution of modern surface ices in lunar cold traps.

Star Formation – Planets form in circumstellar disks around young stars in the early stage of star formation and the physical, chemical, and kinematic properties of young stellar objects set the initial conditions of planet formation and affect subsequent evolution of protostars and planets. The study of this process is being done with the VYSOS survey telescope. A typical outcome of the collapse of a star-forming cloud is that small multiple systems form. At radio wavelengths these star forming regions are often associated with radio continuum emission. The emission can trace both outflow and ionized regions. We have investigated two radio sources to understand their physical nature. We have collected high-resolution data of nearby young stellar objects in the embedded phase of star formation. Herbig Ae/Be stars are stars that have not yet reached the main sequence and are of intermediate mass, usually associated with nebulosity and circumstellar disks. These stars are of interest because they bridge transitions between several regimes of star formation from solar-type stars to massive stars. We have explored the Orion star-forming environment in a region that is rather inactive in star formation to characterize its young stars

Ice chemistry and chemical processing –We used the Keck ice chemistry laboratory at the University of Hawaii to investigate the effect of ionizing radiation on simple astrophysical ice representatives in the solid state using FTIR, UV-VIS, Raman spectroscopy as well as the products analyzed in the gas phase while subliming to the gas phase after a controlled temperature desorption. Work has focused on understanding the identification of unknown species seen in astronomical spectra of icy satellites and in interstellar ices and exploring the formation pathways for the chemicals. The investigations included understanding the formation of ozone and features near 300 nm on Ganymede, investigating the band center shifts for CO2 in outer solar system icy moons, looking at production of deuterated water from irradiation of icy surfaces. Additionally, analysis of data from a DDF supported project on irradiation of ices relevant to the surface of Enceladus was completed and a paper is being prepared for publication. Two projects related to synthesis of prebiotic materials in inter-stellar ices were conducted, including formation of glycerol and glycolaldehyde.

Subsurface Astrobiology Exploration: Ocean basaltic basement biosphere – The oceanic basaltic crust is the largest aquifer on Earth and has the potential to harbor substantial subsurface microbial ecosystems, which hitherto remains largely uncharacterized and is analogous to extraterrestrial subsurface habitats. This research investigates a deep subseafloor basement biosphere using custom designed instrumentation. Work on the Juan de Fuca Ridge flank has shown that the fluids are enriched in H2, and CH4 suggesting that this aquifer can support H2- and CH4-driven metabolism, and the isotopic analysis shows that the CH4 is of both biogenic and abiotic origins. In other borehole samples high microbial sulfate reduction rates were measured in laboratory incubations – consistent with novel thermophilic lineages of sulfate-reducing microorganisms.

Biosignatures and Habitability – we are approaching these issues from both a theoretical dynamical perspective to investigate habitable zones in planet hosting binary star systems and through investigations of the galactic habitable zone. Models of the Galactic Habitable Zone have yet to include the dangers posed by perturbations to Oort clouds and gravitational distributions to planetary systems. To model this danger in a self-consistent manner with the other dangers of supernovae sterilizations, and the formation history of the Milky Way, new methods need to be developed for efficient stellar trajectory processing. We combine this with an observational component and to search for biosignatures using polarimetric methods, and have developed techniques for searching for technology using infrared light.

Extrasolar Planet Discovery, Theory and Characterization – Observational surveys for exoplanets are rapidly increasing the inventory of planets in a variety of extrasolar planetary system architectures and our team is probing the diverse solar systems that have resulted from planet formation and evolution. Our team has been active in the discovery of circumbinary planets, bringing the number up to 10 known. We have an active program to characterize the composition of super-Earths, and Earth-sized bodies using transit spectra of the atmospheres and through measurement of radii from transits and masses from radial velocity techniques. Finally, we continue work on dynamical modeling of planet formation.

Life’s Choice of Amino Acids – A key theme for our team is to understand why life has selected a set of only 20 amino acids as the basis for biology. Through the calculation of the chemical structures of possible amino acid structures, it has been found that amino acid similarity is rooted in physicochemical properties. The work continues to explore the relationship between the early amino acids and the ones used in the modern genetic code.

Developing Interdisciplinary Collaborations – In order to expose the interdisciplinary roots and applications of astrobiology, we have continued the development of the Astrobiology Integrative Research Framework, AIRFrame. Using a variety of machine learning and clustering techniques, we have harvested and analyzed thousands of astrobiology publications to identify specific crossover documents that can serve as bridges between scientists whose work might inform each other, and suggest productive interdisciplinary collaborations. Using a variety of machine learning and clustering techniques, we have harvested and analyzed thousands of astrobiology publications to identify specific crossover documents that can serve as bridges between scientists whose work might inform each other, and suggest productive interdisciplinary collaborations.

Leveraged Funding

The NASA supported UHNAI has continued to serve as a catalyst for the development of new initiatives at the University of Hawaii, and during the CAN 5 period to date, we have brought in approximately $12.6 million in additional funding related to projects supported through the UHNAI.

Visitor Program

When first becoming a member of the NAI, our team was able to secure use of an apartment in faculty 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, collaborators and other NAI team visitors. In addition to research, the visitors contribute to our astrobiology seminar series. The following visitors made use of the facility during this reporting period:

  • William Welsh – February-March, 2014 – Bill came from San Diego State University to work with CoI Nader Haghighipour on the detection of circumbinary planets in the host star’s habitable zone.
  • Joe Smyth – October 7-11, 2013 and July 28-August 1, 2014 – Visited our team from the University of Colorado to continue his collaboration on deep mantle rocks, and to use the Keck Cosmochemistry laboratory ion probe. The goal is to understand how the water (H) is incorporated into deep mantle materials.
  • Dennis Bodewitz – Oct 19-24, 2013 and Jan 14-20, 2014 – from the University of Maryland came to work with team members Karen Meech, Jacqueline Keane, and Svetlana Berdyugina on two observing runs to look for water outgassing from main belt comets and the dwarf planet Ceres.
  • Dennis Wellnitz – Mar 11-May 5, 2014 – from the University of Maryland joined our team for 6 weeks to work on further development of our CAVE facility.
  • Bin Yang – Aug 8-18, 2014 – from the European Southern Observatory in Chile, came to Hawaii to participate in an observing run on the NASA IRTF facility and to work with team members on mutual science projects related to astronomical observations of aqueous processes.

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, student and teacher summer school programs, as well as public activities.

  • Middle and High School Programs – The 2014 HI STAR workshop was conducted June 2-10, 2014 with 21 students. About 50% are from other islands and are females and 20% are at-risk, special needs. At this year’s State Science Fair there were 10 projects from students who had pass through CoI Mary Kadooka’s HISTAR summer program. Kaiser high school student Stephanie Spear won the top prize with her project on Asteroid classification. She competing at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles in May together with 5 other students previous year’s workshops. In the physics category, two Maui juniors were awarded 3rd place for their project and one female junior took 4th place for her project. Two exoplanet project HI STAR students have officially been named as co-authors on an article for a peer-reviewed journal. Four HI STAR students were selected to do presentations for the first TEDXYouth conferences in May 2014 on Maui and Honolulu.
  • Teacher Training – Our astrobiology Master Teacher training program, Ali’I, lead by Mary Kadooka, ran from 2004-2013, and in 2014 the Master teachers ran secondary workshops. These workshops were held in Pennsylvania (2), New York (2), California (1) and Hawaii (5). Three teachers conducted a session at the International Ocean Science Meeting in Honolulu in Feb 2014. The ALI’I teachers take advantage of ongoing opportunities, and 5 signed up for an online astrobiology course on the Emergency of Life offered by the Univ. of Illinois NAI team held in July. Three teachers conducted astrobiology workshops at the National Science Teacher Association regional meeting in CA during the Fall 2014, and a New York teacher will conducted a local workshop in August 2014.

Programs for the Public

Institute for Astronomy annual Open House – On Sunday April 6, 2014 the open house was held, attended by up over 1500 people. The UHNAI team played a prominent role. Team members gave public lectures that were relevant to astrobiology, including: “Life on Tatooine!, The Worlds With Two Suns” (CoI Nader Haghighipour), “Comets and Asteroids Behaving Badly . . . When the Unexpected Occurs” (PI Karen Meech), and “Earth-Like Planets Around Other Stars” (CoI Andrew Howard). In addition, our team had an Astrobiology exhibit, and we operated the 3D miniCave for the public, had comet making, comet activity, impact cratering and spectroscopy hands on activities. Finally, some of our previous HISTAR Hawaii State Science Fair Winners displayed their projects at the open house.

Journey Through the Universe – Postdoctoral fellow Hsin-Fang Chiang participated in the program coordinated through the Gemini Observatory, and is in collaboration with the Hawai’i state Department of Education on Mar. 10-14, 2014 in Hilo. Hsin-Fang visited a local elementary school and spoke to 3 classes.

Hawaii Con Science Fiction Convention – The first convention of this type was held on the big Island from 12-14 September, 2014. The organizers contacted the Institute for Astronomy for speakers so that there could be a strong science component at the event. UHNAI team members K. Meech, M. Mottl, G. Steward, and R. Gazan presented a talk on “The end of life on Earth” – an interdisciplinary exploration of the changes Earth has undergone since formation and will go through until the sun dies (from the book “Life and Death of Planet Earth” by P. Ward and D. Brownlee), followed by a discussion of 3 possible ways things might end sooner: large volcanic eruption (igneous provinces), biological extinction / over population, and from the computer and information science perspective – that we are approaching a time when simulations are so good, it may be preferred over reality. In addition, Mike Mottl was a member of the “Mars exploration panel” (with Phil Plait (“Bad Astronomer”) and Bobak Ferdowsi (JPL flight director for the Curiosity Rover Mission)). Team member Andrew Howard conducted a session exploring exoplanetary worlds, and team member Kim Binsted gave a presentation on mission simulation habitats and analog environments.

Nordic-COST Exoplanet Summer School held on La Palma, Canary Islands 23 Sep-2 Oct – Team members K. Meech and N. Haghighipour participated in the Nordic-COST Exoplanet summer school lead by UHNAI Nordic Network collaborator W. Geppert. The program gathered 29 graduate students and postdocs from Europe, the US, Australia and China, to participate in lectures, hands on activities and observing using the Nordic Optical Telescope on topics related to extrasolar planetary systems. The hands-on activities focused on reducing transit data that the students obtained, and modeling exoplanet atmospheres. The workshop met its goals of establishing a network of students and they are already planning to form an exoplanet group on SaganNet.

“Overall, this has been by far the most rewarding external activity that I’ve ever taken part in during my PhD”...

Finally, as part of the activities the comet C/2012 S1 ISON perihelion, public viewing of the comet were held, and the UHNAI team offered a daily news byte for staff and friends of the IfA once the comet was visible to small telescopes to allow the community to participate in this rare event. The UHNAI team was also heavily involved in the comet ISON observing campaign, and using many of the facilities on Mauna Kea to watch the development of this comet as it approaches perihelion. This comet is unique in that it is both new (fresh) to the inner solar system and a sungrazer, meaning it will get very bright, providing the opportunity for a wide suite of experiments. On Maunakea our team has been using Keck in collaboration with M. Mumma of the GSFC team to go after organic volatile species, we have used Subaru to look at dust in the IR, Gemini telescope to look at the dust, the Canada France Hawaii telescope both for wide field imaging of the dust and spectra, and the JCMT telescope to look at molecules at sub-mm wavelengths.

Public Evening Lectures & Other Public Talks

  • On 12/17/2013 UHNAI Postdoctoral Fellow James Stephenson and graduate student Heather Kaluna hosted 15 Japanese High School students in our 3D CAVE. The students were from Masuda Super Science High School in Japan. One of their alumni, Ryo Furue, is a professor at the IPRC in SOEST, and set up this program. Every year a group of students visit the Subaru Observatory, IfA, and IPRC over a 3 day period, just to get a science research experience. They were very impressed with the activities of the UHNAI and astrobiology in general.
  • On Nov. 27, 2013 Andrew Howard and his student Erik Petigura were on the radio show Bytemarks Café on Hawaii Pubic Radio to discuss exoplanets.
  • UHNAI team members Jeff Taylor, Mike Mottl and Karen Meech participated in a 45 min live TV show discussing astrobiology and interdisciplinary science in Hawaii on the ThinkTech! TV show, broadcast June 30, 2014.
  • UHNAI Team member Svetlana Berdyugina was a presenter at the TEDxMaui event “Searching for Life in the Universe” held at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center theater on Sunday, September 28, 2014. The program featured 18 speakers on the topic of “A Brilliant Life” ( She spoke on her biosignature measurements on plants, her “blue planet” results, and the 75 m Colossuss telescope project.
  • Team member Rich Gazan was invited to present at the Hawaiian Librarianship Symposium Ho’okele Na’auau at the Hawai’inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge on 2014 Oct 24. When researchers from diverse disciplines collaborate, the data management norms and practices of each community often work against effective digital preservation. The conflicting customs, expectations and legal rights of researchers, teams, universities and funding agencies echo some of the challenges of developing digital collections that respect the concerns of individuals, families, communities and cultures. Both NASA and the National Science Foundation have recently released data management guidelines for funded research that invite revision and refinement to make them more adaptable to diverse research communities, providing an opportunity for models of cultural knowledge preservation to inform data management policy in the sciences.
  • CoI Bo Reipurth presented “Mars, the Red Planet, in Culture and Science” on Friday 17 Oct in the Imiloa Planetarium on the big island.

Astrobiology Courses – The UHNAI team continued our Astrobiology seminar each semester, high-lighting team research. Additionally, an undergraduate astrobiology course taught by K. Meech was offered. We are progressing with the development of an Astro-X interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate program at UH.

CoI Steve Freeland is developing a vigorous Astrobiology program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore Campus (UMBC) as a result of our UHNAI activites is creating an “Astrobiology Track” over the next 2-3 years. This has begun with the developmet of an undergraduate course for seniors in Astrobiology, and plans for a summer astrobiology camp for middle school children in Baltimore. We hope to form a partnership whereby graduate students undertaking astrobiology theses would have summer internships at UMBC to receive formatl training in how to teach interdisciplinary courses – thus preparing the next generation for interdisciplinary astrobiology careers.

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 astrobiology for graduate students and early career astrobiologists. Outside of these programs, the UHNAI collaborates with the Nordic Network on other graduate summer schools. This year, the UH-Nordic Winter school was held from 2014 January 1-14 in Hawaii. (See the Education and outreach section in the report for a discussion of the activities.)

The next UHNAI-Nordic graduate summer school will be held in Iceland from 2015 July 1-13, and the detailed planning is underway. For the 2014 program we had collaboration with the ASU and USC NAI teams, and had guest speakers from many of the NAI teams: Dave DesMarais (Ames), Kevin Hand (JPL Icy Worlds), Steven Desch (ASU), John Baross (VPL). We have received 74 applications from 16 countries for 30 positions. Participants were recruited by newsletter announcements, email advertisement, and via contact with NAI teams and international partners. We had wide international interest, with applicants from 18 countries (including 3 from the Nordic Network, and from the countries with international affiliations: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Spain, and the UK). The participant breakdown was 63% from the US, 17% from the Nordic network, and 17% from countries with NAI affiliations. We imposed new restrictions on applicants to cut down on unsuitable candidates. This included that the applicant be less than 5 years from PhD, and that they demonstrate a need for interdisciplinary training. We will work with UHNAI international partners to secure funding for the international participants.

International Collaboration

Our participation with the Nordic Network of Astrobiologists has strengthened, and our mutual programs helped them secure some major new funding from the COST action to continue their work. The goal of the Nordic network is to promote research in astrobiology in Nordic countries, and foster collaboration in research, education and E/PO within the network, and to the international community. Team members K. Meech and N. Haghighipour participated in the Nordic summer course on Exoplanets held in La Palma, Spain 23 September to 3 October 2014. The NAI was a co-sponsor of this event through the UHNAI.

Meetings and Workshops

Several of our team members participated in workshops that furthered development of astrobiology strategies and research, and in addition our team sponsored astrobiology-related workshops during this period, including:

  • Geological Society of America – Pardee Symposium on “Water, water, everywhere in the Solar System” – Oct 29, 2013

K. Meech was invited as a keynote speaker in this special session organized by Devon Burr and Robert Anderson. The Pardee Symposia are special sessions on topics designed to appeal to a large number of attendees who are not specialists in a particular field. The session included talks on water on Mercury, the Moon, Mars, and Vesta, and the implications for water in asteroid interiors and on their surfaces, including fluid inclusions in meteorites. The astrobiology connection was drawn with talks about the subsurface oceans on Europa and Enceladus, and finished with a discussion on the Origin of Earth’s water.
  • AGU Meeting – October 29, 2013

A special session at the AGU meeting in December has been organized by P. Yanamandra-Fisher, and NAI PIs K. Meech and M. Mumma, in coordination with the Comet ISON campaign to highlight the fresh results from perihelion on this unique comet.
  • KISS Workshop about “New Approaches to Lunar Ice Detection and Mapping” – Caltech, Nov 4-7, 2013.

Brendan Hermalyn and Norbert Schorghofer attended the invitation-only workshop sponsored by the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS). The workshop brought together scientists and engineers with the goal to develop prime science objectives for lunar exploration and innovative mission concepts (such as penetrators and nanosats) that can address these objectives.
  • Interdisciplinary collaborative Astrobiology Research – Science Team of Science, Aug 6-8, 2014

Team member Rich Gazan participated with A. Aydinoglu and E. Dodson in a panel discussion interdisciplinary collaborative astrobiology – three perspectives. The first perspective represents the funding agency and describes the sociotechnical dimensions of building operational research communities and ensuring their sustainability. It addresses the collaborative requirements for the NAI Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN), the composition of the funded teams, support given by the NAI during and after the project, Focus Groups and the social strategy behind the funding cycles. The second perspective is from a researcher embedded into the NAI who has been brought to study the interdisciplinary collaborative practices across the astrobiology network and to report back to the management. The final perspective is delivered by an independent researcher evaluating the outcome of this interdisciplinary endeavor. Through bibliometric analysis and visualization tools based on unsupervised learning algorithms, this presentation focuses on the network topology of astrobiology research.
  • Extreme Biochemistry from Small Molecules to Proteins – Formation, Stability, Structure, and Function ACS Symposium San Francisco, CA, Fall 2014, August 10-14, 2014

CoI R. Kaiser helped to organize an astrochemistry symposium at the Fall meeting of the American Chemical Society meeting. Topics included interstellar chemistry, prebiotic terrestrial chemistry, and the properties and structures of extremophile proteins from extreme thermal, chemical and other challenging environments. The utilization of these studies to biotech applications was also discussed.
  • 2nd Workshop on Experimental Laboratory Astrophysics – ICE2015, Poipu, Kauai Hawaii, Feb .23-26, 2015

CoI R. Kaiser has organized this workshop to be held in Hawaii, featuring the interaction of ionizing radiation (UV, VUV, gamma rays, charged particles) and neutrals (atoms, radicals, molecules, grains) with low temperature solids (ices, minerals, organics).

Finally, team members K. Meech, N. Haghighipour and A. Howard have been actively organizing sessions for the International Astronomical Union General Assembly to be held in Hawaii during August 2015.

Flight Mission Concept

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 interdisciplinary team from the departments of Astronomy, Oceanography, and from the Hawaiian Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, continue development of 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.