SETI Institute Weekly Colloquium
At the Microsoft Campus in Mountain view
1065 La Avenida St, Mountain View CA
FREE and open to the public. Tuesdays, noon to 1pm
Before the flyby of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, one of the major sources of data about Pluto's atmosphere was ground-based observational data of light intensity as Pluto moved in front of a background star. From these data the temperature of Pluto's atmosphere as a function of altitude was derived using various techniques. These techniques rely on knowledge of the vertical temperature structure of Pluto's atmosphere before doing the calculation from light intensity to temperature, the very property that is being sought. Here I will make the distinction between the "inverse problem" and "forward problem" of analyzing ground-based stellar occultation data, and how we can ensure that we are comparing "apples to apples" when comparing stellar occultation data, model results, and data from other sources.
Charon is Pluto's large companion, and last summer it went from a distant point of light to a full-fledged world in human understanding. Join us as we discuss the interesting fractured geology of Charon. Dr. Ross Beyer, member of the New Horizons team and a Research Scientist at the SETI Institute will take you on a tour of the canyons, faults, craters, smooth plains, enigmatic mountains, and all manner of terrains that New Horizons observed as it flew through the Pluto system.
Since Galileo, astronomers and planetary scientists work hard to draw accurate representations of planetary surfaces. Planetary mapping today is a tool of geological investigation, landing site selection and also a visual statement of our ever expanding horizon of discovery. From copper engravings to dynamic online maps, the technique of presenting planetary maps changed a lot. In this presentation I will show some early examples of how planetary maps can communicate unspoken preconceptions (no, its not the canals), and show how we mapped the Navua Valles, which may have episodically provided habitable environments on the inner rim of Hellas Basin on Mars. The talk is part of the International Map Year celebrations.
Dr. Angerhausen will give a short introduction to the science of extrasolar planets, in particular the technique of transit, eclipse and phasecurve spectro-photometry. He will describe his various projects in this emerging field using state of the art spectroscopic and photometric instruments on the largest ground based telescopes, the 'flying telescope' SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) and the Kepler and Hubble space telescopes.
Quantum mechanics is a foundation of physics, chemistry and materials science. Still, there is an ongoing debate about the emergence of the classical, macroscopic world from the well-understood microscopic world of quantum mechanics. We contribute to this discourse by demonstrating quantum superposition of massive particles at the distance (0.5 m) and time scales (2 s) of everyday life, thereby advancing the state-of-the-art of atom de Broglie wave interferometry by nearly two orders of magnitude . In addition to testing a central tenet of quantum mechanics, we pave the way for new precision tests of gravity, including the possible observation of gravitational waves and tests of the equivalence principle. In related experimental work, we demonstrate that entangled clusters of approximately 1000 atoms can be used to achieve 10-fold improvement in the sensitivity of quantum sensors based on atomic transitions; the levels of performance achieved could not have been realized with any competing (non-entangled) method .
 Kovachy, et al., Nature 528, 530 (2015).
 Hosten, et al., Nature 529, 505 (2016).
Dr. Borg has recently conducted high precision SmNd isotopic analyses of a suite of 11 Martian basaltic meteorites in order to better constrain the age of planetary core formation on Mars. Dr. Borg will show how these data can be used to evaluate the merits and disadvantages of various mathematical approaches that have been employed in previous isotopic work on Martian core formation.
Dr. Borg will explain how Late accretional heating of Mars could either be associated with protracted accretion occurring at a quasi-steady state or alternatively be associated with a late giant impact. If this scenario is correct, then accretion of Mars-sized bodies takes up to 60 Ma and is likely to be contemporaneous with planetary core formation.
Dr. Borg will explain how this further challenges the concept that isotopic equilibrium is attained during primordial evolution of planets, and may help to account for geochemical evidence implying addition of material into planetary interiors after core formation was completed.
The field of evolution and explosion of massive stars has progressed tremendously in the past half-century, yet there are still many issues remain at large. In this talk, soon to be Dr. Sukhbold will provide a generic overview of the problem and will discuss recent developments on surveying the explosion outcomes of massive stars (nucleosynthesis, remnants, light curves) through 1-dimensional calculations
Until very recently, the Moon was considered to be essentially anhydrous. Early analysis of rock and soil samples returned by the Apollo missions suggested they lacked any hydrous mineral phases or water-bearing weathering products. However, in the last decade, advances in laboratory and remote sensing work have fundamentally altered our understanding of water on the Moon. We now know water exists in several different forms on and within the Moon, each form of water telling us about a different part of lunar history. I’ll review the discoveries of water on the Moon, what they mean, and how we will use the Lunar Flashlight cubesat mission to map water for future use by human explorers.
Dr. Barbara Cohen is a planetary scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center interested in geochronology and geochemistry of planetary samples from the Moon, Mars and asteroids. She is a Principal Investigator on multiple NASA research projects, leads the MSFC Noble Gas Research Laboratory (MNGRL), is a member of the Mars Exploration Rover mission team still operating the Opportunity rover, and is the principal investigator for Lunar Flashlight, a lunar cubesat mission that will be launched to the Moon in 2018.
(1) saving civilization on Earth from the worst ravages of climate change by scaled-up 2F-MSBRs;
(2) using the fission fragments of related nuclear fission reactions for ion-propulsion that produces rockets two to three orders of magnitude faster than achievable with chemical rockets, making possible, perhaps, a first generation of starships.
In 1960 two seminal papers in SETI were published, providing two visions for SETI. Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison’s proposed detecting deliberate radio signals ("communication SETI"), while Freeman Dyson ("artifact SETI"), proposed detecting the inevitable effects of massive energy supplies and artifacts on their surroundings. While communication SETI has now had several career-long practitioners, artifact SETI has, until recently, not been a vibrant field of study.
The launch of the Kepler and WISE satellites have greatly renewed interest in the field, however, and the recent Breakthrough Listen Initiative has provided new motivation for finding good targets for communication SETI. Dr. Wright will discuss the progress of the Ĝ Search for Extraterrestrial Civilizations with Large Energy Supplies, including its justification and motivation, waste heat search strategy and first results, and the framework for a search for megastructures via transit light curves. The last of these led to the identification of KIC 8462852 (a.k.a. "Tabby's Star") as a candidate ETI host. This star, discovered by Boyajian and the Zooniverse Planet Hunters, exhibits several apparently unique and so-far unexplained photometric properties, and continues to confound natural explanation.