From SETI: “Activity Report of the SETI Institute August 2016”

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SETI Institute

Sept 20, 2016
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With the fall breezes beginning their appearances here in Mountain View, our Summer Interns have gone back to school after impressing us with their summer projects. However, SETI Institute scientists are still keeping busy. They continue to unravel more puzzles about our local celestial neighbors, as well as other worlds many light-years away. Every day, researchers at the SETI Institute are expanding both our knowledge and understanding in the quest to find life beyond Earth.

This work includes publications in peer-reviewed journals, research presentations and speaking engagements, technical reports, intellectual property filings and more.

As part of our outreach and commitment to share the Institute’s science and research, we present our monthly “Activity Report of the Carl Sagan Center” which catalogs the work of our scientists.

In the August 2016 report, among the numerous publications you will see, “Planetary Candidates Observed by Kepler VII. “The First Fully Uniform Catalog Based on the Entire 48-month Data Set (Q1–Q17 DR24),” published by The Astrophysical Journal Supplement; “Shielding Biomolecules from Effects of Radiation by Mars Analog Minerals and Soils,” accepted by the International Journal of Astrobiology; and “M Stars in the TW Hya Association: Stellar X-Rays and Disk Dissipation,” revealed in The Astronomical Journal.

Also in this report you will see ongoing participation by SETI scientists at conferences and events, including preparing for speaking opportunities such as a Kepler presentation at the Presidio in San Francisco, and asteroid discussions at Evergreen Community College in San Jose. One of our SETI Scientists also participated in the India Spaceward Bond Expedition with numerous stops across the sub-continent.

Our quest belongs to all of humankind, and we’re making it easier for you to share in the excitement of discovery and exploration that is daily life at the SETI Institute!

Download the complete report

Peer-Reviewed Publications

1. Bishop J. L. & Rampe E. B. (2016) Evidence for a changing Martian climate through Al/Si clay unit at Mawrth Vallis. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 448, 42-48.

2. Cabrol, N.A. (2016) Alien mindscapes – A perspective on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Astrobiology, 16 (9), September 2016 Issue, DOI: 10.1089/ast.2016.1536.

3. Coughlin J. et al. (2016), Planetary Candidates Observed by Kepler. VII. The First Fully Uniform Catalog Based on the Entire 48-month Data Set (Q1–Q17 DR24), ApJS, 224, 12.

4. de Pater, I., Davies, A.G. & Marchis, F., (2016). “Keck observations of eruptions on Io in 2003–2005.” Icarus, 274, pp.284–296. Available at:

5. Draper, Z.H. et al., (2016). “The Peculiar Debris Disk of HD 111520 as Resolved by the Gemini Planet Imager.” The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 826, Issue 2, article id. 147, pp. (2016)., 826. Available at:

6. El Moutamid M, Nicholson PD, French RG, Tiscareno MS, Murray CD, Evans MW, McGhee French C, Hedman MM, and Burns JA. “How Janus’ orbital swap affects the edge of Saturn’s A ring.” Icarus 279, 125-140 (arXiv:1510.00434).

7. Ertem G., C. P. McKay, R. M. Hazen (2016) “Shielding Biomolecules from Effects of Radiation by Mars Analog Minerals and Soils.” International Journal of Astrobiology, accepted.

8. Harp, G. R., Jon Richards, Jill C. Tarter, John Dreher, Jane Jordan, Seth Shostak, Ken Smolek, Tom Kilsdonk, Bethany R. Wilcox, M. K. R. Wimberly, John Ross, W. C. Barott, R. F. Ackermann, Samantha Blair, (2016). “SETI observations of exoplanets with the Allen Telescope Array,” Astrophys. J. In press.

9. Kastner, J. H., Principe, D. A., Punzi, K., Stelzer, B., Gorti, U., Pascucci, I., and Argiroffi, C. (2016). M Stars in the TW Hya Association: Stellar X-Rays and Disk Dissipation. The Astronomical Journal 152, 3.

10. Konopacky, Q.M.,Marchis, F., et al., (2016). “Discovery of a Substellar Companion to the Nearby Debris Disk Host HR 2562.” Eprint arXiv:1608.06660. Available at:

11. Lieman-Sifry, J., Hughes, A. M., Carpenter, J. M., Gorti, U., Hales, A., and Flaherty, K. M. (2016). Debris Disks in the Scorpius-Centaurus OB Association Resolved by ALMA. The Astrophysical Journal 828, 25.

12. Marsset, M., Marchis, F., et al., 2016. (107) 1. IAU Circ., 9282, 1 (2016). Edited by Green, D. W. E., 9282.….1M

13. Steffen J., and J. Coughlin (2016): A new population of planetary systems characterized by short-period, Earth-sized planets. PNAS, Accepted Aug. 15, 2016.

14. Teague, R., Guilloteau, S., Semenov, D., Henning, T., Dutrey, A., Pietu, V., Birnstiel, T., Chapillon, E., Hollenbach, D., and Gorti, U., (2016). Measuring turbulence in TW Hydrae with ALMA: methods and limitations. Astronomy and Astrophysics 592, A49.

Intellectual Property
SETI is currently reviewing another 23 technology developments for provisional patent submittal.

Significant Events and Activities

1. Andersen, D. and Jeff Moersch returned from work with Wayne Pollard mapping retrogressive thaw slumps and other periglacial features on Ellesmere Island and Axel Heiberg Island.

2. Bonaccorsi, R. Rosalba attended the following events as SETI Institute’s representative.
a) Opening ceremony and Flag Off of India Spaceward Bound Expedition
(August 8) Lemon Tree, Delhi. Secretary Science & Technology and Earth Sciences (Harsh Vardhan), Secretary-DST, High Commissioner Australia, Ms. Harinder Sidhu, Director-BSIP Sunil Bajpai, President-MSA, J. Clarke, coordinators Siddharth Pandey, and Mukund Sharma attended the event.

b) 2016 Spaceward Bound India Expedition Team member (Leh-Ladakh, August 9-19) Spaceward Bound Program-India team members included 32 researchers and educators from India, USA, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, and Italy. As in every SB expedition, the educators worked with scientist doing astrobiology research, as well as testing instruments and life detection protocols for planetary exploration. Educators learned hands on in the field and will bring the acquired knowledge back to their classroom. Several planetary analogue sites were scouted and sampled for further analysis by the team. They are:
i. Hot springs/hydrothermal systems: (Panamik, Chumathang, and Puga) Barcane dune system & inter dune ephemeral ponds (Hunder Dunes)
ii. Cold desert at high passes (KhardungLa and TaglangLa)
iii. Saline, hyper-saline lakes and permafrost (TsoMoriri, Sumdo/Kiagar Tso, and Tso Kar) in Nubra Valley

c) During and after the expedition the team engaged 5 schools in Leh-Ladakh, trained the teachers, and engaged undergraduate and graduated students from other two Institutes in Delhi and Lucknow.

d) August 25t – September 5th “Visiting Scientist at the IBSP (Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany (Department of Science and Technology, India Govt.) in Lucknow. Post India Spaceward Bound Expedition, planetary analogue samples collected in the Leh Ladakh region are now analyzed in collaboration with IBSP colleagues Mukund Sharma and Binita Phartiyal. Samples’ biomarkers ATP and Lipid A are extracted from the analog samples and characterized using microscopy facilities at IBSP.

e) First astrobiology-themed International Space Forum (August 21). The event was held at the Amity Institute of Aerospace Engineering (AIAE), New Delhi. Sessions included “Identifying key areas of collaboration and stumbling blocks for astrobiology research in India”; “Out Reach activity of Spaceward Bound India -2016”; and “Interactive Session with Students”. During the last two sessions I gave short talks about “Astrobiology opportunities at the SETI Institute & NASA Ames”; “Analytical detection issues of relevance to search for life elsewhere”, & summary of planetary analogue environments of interest to my own research. Dr. Ashok K Chauhan, Founder President, Amity Education Foundation and Chairman AKC Group of Companies; Dr. (Mrs.) B Shukla – Vice Chancellor, Amity University and Dr. Sanjay Singh, Director, AIAE inaugurated the Space Forum.

3. Busch, M. The OSIRIS-REx mission to the asteroid Bennu is scheduled to launch on September 8. Bennu was previously characterized with Arecibo radar imaging; and has a series of potential Earth impacts between 2185 and 2200 that have not yet been ruled out. In addition to detailed characterization of Bennu and returning samples of it to Earth, O-REx should be able to reduce the uncertainties in Bennu’s trajectory to the point that the potential impacts are ruled out.

4. Cabrol, N.

a) NAI Team telecom for the organization of the scientific expedition in the Andes.

b) Participated in the NASA Astrobiology Executive Council meeting on August 26.

5. Caldwell, D.

a) Revised and released Kepler “Data Release Notes 25” describing the final Kepler data processing release for all prime mission data Quarter-0 through Quarter-17. Co-Editor with Susan Thompson-Mullally. (

b) Headed SETI Institute REU program for July/Aug. Oversaw student research talks and final papers, arranged Lick Observatory & NASA Ames tours.

6. The Carl Sagan Center Science Council met on August 22 to plan the roadmapping effort of the SETI Institute for the next year.

7. Zalucha, A.: Successful simulation of a dust blob on Mars with MRAMS code, and successful model run of MRAMS on NASA Pleiades, which will allow for faster computing.

Potential Highlights for the Website and/or PR

Beyer, R. The New Horizons team has decided that his DPS abstract entitled “Landslides on Charon and not on Pluto” is newsworthy, and will be notifying the DPS Press officer for it to be included as part of the New Horizons press conference at the DPS meeting in Pasadena.
Busch, M. Both the Frontier Development Lab program and the REU program have concluded for the summer. Presentations from the REU students summarizing their results have already been made public through the SETI Institute YouTube channel. Presentations from the Frontier Development Lab groups are available at .
Doyle, L.

Attended the Foundational Questions in Physics (FQXi) Conference, by invitation only, and presented a paper on their quantum astronomy experiment, which was very well received.

Gave an interview to the Christian Science Monitor newspaper about the new extrasolar planet around Proxima Centauri.
The Exoplanet Group and Colloquium Series of the SETI Institute organized a panel on Proxima Centauri b with Natalie Batalha, Chris Burkhart, Eduardo Bendek, Tom Barclay on August 30. Below a short article including some pictures. Pictures are here:

SETI is hopeful yet skeptical that Russians found aliens

Marchis, F. Discovery of a second moon around (107) Camilla.

Reviewed a book for National Geographic.

Popular Publications
Marchis, F.
 Blog post on Proxima Centauri b – Proxima Centauri b: Have we just found Earth’s cousin right on our doorstep?

 “Let’s be careful about this “SETI” signal.”

Shostak, S.
 “Danger, Will Robinson,” Huffington Post, August 1, 2016.

 “Have We Detected an Alien Megastructure in Space? Keep an Open Mind,” August 12, 2016. The Guardian.

 Aliens on Line 1”, Air & Space Magazine, August, 2016,

 “The World Next Door,” August 24, 2016, Huffington Post,

Other Media / Interviews
Nathalie A. Cabrol
08/31 Interview with the “La Recherche” magazine (Search for Extraterrestrial Life) on August 31.
08/23 Phone Interview with a Canadian radio on August 23rd about the article “Alien Landscapes,” published in Astrobiology.

Seth Shostak
08/4 Interview by Czech science radio show (simul-record)
08/9 Interview about KIC 8462852, Pat Thurston, KGO Radio, San Francisco (ISDN)
08/25 Interview by “Amy on the Radio” (Skype)

Jill Tarter
08/3 Film video for Asteroid Day web site
08/22 Film with California Humanities
08/25 Phone interview with Tommy Schnurmacher Show on CJAD 800, Montreal
08/25 Phone interview with Leonard David

See the full article here .

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