Exobiology: From Worlds We Know To Other Stars
This year’s LPSC Exobiology poster session features a wide span of investigations, analytical techniques, models, and perspectives. We invite members of the press to meet the session chair, Dr. Susanne P. Schwenzer, at the beginning of the poster session, Tuesday, March 20, at 6:00 p.m. at the entrance to the Town Center Exhibit Area (at the base of the hotel escalator to the ground floor). Dr. Schwenzer will give a brief introduction of the session and introduce you to the poster area, where the authors will be present to meet with you for approximately one hour starting at 6:10 p.m.
The session starts out from worlds we know, events, and analogs on Earth. Measuring isotopes — such as investigating Zn-, C-, and S-isotopic systems — provides valuable insights on biologic activity throughout Earth’s history and allows developing tools to explore other worlds, such as Mars. Locations in terrestrial cold climate areas are in focus as Mars analog sites — and fumaroles and hydrothermal activity serve to record the interaction between hot water and rocks to build habitable sites.
Exploring habitability and searching for past and present biologic activity on other worlds requires technology and instrumentation. In this year’s Exobiology session two contributions specifically address how instruments could search larger areas within a target site for biologic textures and molecules. In addition, instrumentation used on the Desert-RATS activity and a Mars simulation chamber are introduced.
Chassigny, the martian meteorite that fell in France in 1815, joins the group of martian meteorites in focus of the search for life on Mars. In this year’s LPSC session an investigation into organic material found associated with apatite in Chassigny is a highlight for organic molecule research.
The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission is contributing to the session with its first new data generated in flight by the Radiation Assessment Detector. Radiation is an important topic of the session, because it causes both formation of new species and degradation of organic molecules. A group of five presentations covers the range from cosmic rays to UV. But desiccation and chemical change is another environmental factor addressed, because it is important and potentially detrimental to life.
The session looks beyond Mars and the environmental conditions for preservation and detection of life on the terrestrial planets. Is there phosphorus in cometary comae? Models predict a variety of species of that essential element for cometary comae. Another model addresses the possibility of material exchange between planets orbiting other stars — concluding that in the Gliese 581 system the exchange of material is actually less likely than in our solar system.