SETI Institute Weekly Colloquium

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1065 La Avenida St, Mountain View CA 
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FREE and open to the public. Tuesdays, noon to 1pm

Tuesday, February 16 2016 - 12:00 pm, PST

Potentially biogenic carbon preserved in a 4.1 billion year old zircon

Elizabeth Bell

Although our planet is approximately 4.5 billion years old (Ga), Earth’s fossil record extends only to 3.5 Ga, the chemofossil record arguably to 3.8 Ga, and the rock record to 4.0 Ga.  However, detrital zircons from Jack Hills, Western Australia range in age up to nearly 4.4 Ga.  From a population of over 10,000 zircons from this locality, we identified one 4.10 Ga zircon that contains primary graphite inclusions in a crack-free region, and report carbon isotopic measurements on the graphite.  Evidence for carbon cycling or biologic activity can be derived from carbon isotopic studies, since a high ratio of 12C/13C is characteristic of biogenic carbon.  The 12C-rich isotopic signature of these graphite inclusions is consistent with a biogenic origin and may be evidence that a terrestrial biosphere had emerged by 4.1 Ga, or ~300 million years earlier than has been previously proposed.

Eventbrite - Potentially biogenic carbon preserved in a 4.1 billion year old zircon

Tuesday, February 23 2016 - 12:00 pm, PST

The Breakthrough Initiative - Listen and Megastructures at KIC 8463

Andrew Siemion
UC Berkeley

Dr. Andrew Siemion, Director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center (BSRC) at the University of California, Berkeley, will present an overview of the Breakthrough Listen Initiative, 100-million-dollar, 10-year search for extraterrestrial intelligence.  Dr. Siemion will also discuss other SETI efforts ongoing at the BSRC, including the successful citizen science project SETI@Home, as well as a concerted effort to undertake panchromatic observations of the mysterious Kepler star KIC 8462852.

Eventbrite - The Breakthrough Initiative - Listen and Megastructures at KIC 8463

Tuesday, March 01 2016 - 12:00 pm, PST

Bringing Nuclear Power to Mars

Frank H. Shu
University Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley
Establishing a lunar base is probably a wise first first step to colonizing Mars, and colonizing. Mars will be a giant leap forward for humankind to travel to the stars.  We begin our discussion by noting that the bare minimum for sustaining life on the Moon exists in the water brought by comets to the bottoms of some lunar craters.  Electrolysis of this dirty water can produce clean oxygen (and hydrogen) for the lunar base. A reliable source of primary energy is needed for such tasks, but anywhere on the surface of the Moon, there is no sunlight two weeks out of four, and no wind whatsoever. Nuclear power is the default option, just as is the case of naval submarines where the crews need to live and work in closed environments submerged under the water of the ocean for months at a time.  However, the light water reactors of naval submarines are not a good choice for environments that lack large bodies of water, and we  argue, as first realized by a former NASA Engineer, Kirk Sorensen, that molten salt reactors, of the type invented by Oak Ridge National Lab in the 1960s, are much better suited for a lunar base, or for that matter, a Mars colony. Dr. Shu will then discuss his patented design for the best possible two-fluid molten-salt breeder-reactor (2F-MSBR) that one could build, using thorium that can be mined locally without requiring shipments from mother Earth.  He will close by considering two spin-off applications: 
(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.

Eventbrite - Bringing Nuclear Power to Mars

Tuesday, March 08 2016 - 12:00 pm, PST

Exploring the outer Solar System: now in vivid colour

Michele Bannister
University of Victoria

The outer reaches of our Solar System are home to hundreds of thousands of small icy worlds. Their present orbits are a sculpted signature of the early migrations of the giant planets, particularly Neptune. Yet the faintness and highly eccentric orbits of most of these worlds mean only a tiny fraction of them have yet been discovered. With the Outer Solar System Origins Survey on CFHT, we are discovering up to five hundred new outer Solar System objects, with exquisitely well-determined orbital parameters. Our complementary Large Program on Gemini North is observing the brightest of our discoveries in the optical and infrared with unprecedented precision, providing information on the ices, silicates and organic compounds on the surfaces of these small worlds. This colourful map of the structure of the outer Solar System is providing new constraints on Neptune's migration.

Eventbrite - Exoplanet spectroscopy with diffraction primary objective telescopy

Tuesday, March 15 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

Surviving a methane monsoon: the bizarre cryogenic rains, flammable dunes and carbon hazes of Saturn's planet-moon, Titan

Michael Carroll
In this talk, Author/artist Michael Carroll will explore the bizarre methane-filled seas and soaring dunes of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Recent advances in our understanding of this planet-sized moon provide enough information for authors to paint a realistic picture of this truly alien world. Following his presentation, he will be signing his new science fiction adventure/mystery book, "On the Shores of Titan's Farthest Sea".
"Carroll's descriptions of oily seas and methane monsoons put you in that alien world, front and center…I can imagine future astronauts doing exactly the kinds of things Mike describes. I wish I could be one of them." Alan Bean, Apollo 12 astronaut.

Eventbrite - Exoplanet spectroscopy with diffraction primary objective telescopy

Tuesday, March 22 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

The Evolution and Explosion of Massive Stars

Tuguldur Sukhbold
UC Santa Cruz

Massive stars (at least ~8 solar masses) play an essential role to the evolution of the universe. They lose energy in radiation and neutrinos as they evolve, to create elements necessary to life and to stir the interstellar medium. Upon their death, they experience a dynamical instability that often creates spectacular explosions, which are the birth cries of exotic compact remnants - neutron stars and black holes.
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. Eventbrite - The Evolution and Explosion of Massive Stars

Tuesday, April 19 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

The Twisted Universe: Constraints on Parity Violation within the CMB

Brian Keating
UC San Diego

Eventbrite - The Twisted Universe: Constraints on Parity Violation within the CMB

Tuesday, April 26 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

The SOFIA Observatory: Revealing the Hidden Universe with Airborne Science

Pamela Marcum
NASA Ames Research Center

Eventbrite - The SOFIA Observatory: Revealing the Hidden Universe with Airborne Science

Tuesday, May 10 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

Climate Simulations of Pluto in the Wake of the New Horizons Flyby

Angela Zalucha
SETI Institute

Eventbrite - Geology After Pluto

Tuesday, May 24 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

400 years of Planetary Cartography - mapping channels on Mars

Henrik Hargatai
NASA Ames Research Center

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. 

Eventbrite - Geology After Pluto

Tuesday, June 07 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

Quantum mechanics at the macroscopic scale

Mark Kasevich
Stanford University

Eventbrite - Geology After Pluto

Tuesday, June 21 2016 - 12:00 pm, PDT

A Novel Approach to OSETI

Microsoft and SETI Institute
Eliot Gillum

Eventbrite - Geology After Pluto