KECK INSTITUTE FOR SPACE STUDIES

       

Don't Follow (Just) the Water: Does Life Occur in Non-Aqueous Media? - Part II

September 14-17, 2015
California Institute of Technology - Pasadena, CA 91125

Workshop Overview:

The opening workshop in July 2015 addressed non-aqueous environments that meet the overall requirements for habitability (energy, organics, liquid). After some discussion the workshop settled on three such environments:

  1. terrestrial petroleum deposits isolated from liquid water;
  2. the methane-ethane seas of Titan, and
  3. CO2 above and below the critical point.

With respect to (2), the team decided after much deliberation that the solubilities and reactivities in the Titan seas were too low for significant chemistry to occur, and so a broader range of environments - informed by Cassini data - were selected for consideration in the next workshop. Environment (1), the petroleum, is of interest provided samples not in intimate contact with water (or at least geologically pasteurized after exposure, followed by isolation). One such potential samples exists in the lab of a workshop participant (Prof. Orphan), but a careful protocol would need to be developed to open and test the sample. Further, there may be existing data from laboratories on petroleum samples that may shed some light on the question of contamination by aqueous organisms. Environment (3) was developed only after discussion about the extent to which planetary modelers needed to be specific about the T-P conditions and geologic settings.

The goals for the September workshop are the following:

  1. For the petroleum deposits, report on existing published/unpublished analyses of such samples, evaluate signs of aqueous biological contamination, and discuss protocols for sampling for petroleum based life (what to look for?).
  2. For the Titan environments, report on studies of the potential for surfaces to catalyze reactions and on studies of potential geological/atmospheric processes that might aid reactivity. Follow up on the surprisingly rapid reaction involving organic compounds reported by Hodyss. Develop some examples of autocatalysis that would work in a Titan environment. Investigate the environments of “super-Titans” around other stars and consider the spectral and photometric characteristics of the atmosphere that might be detectable by near-future observations. 
  3. For the CO2, develop some exemplary organic reaction schemes that might lead to autocatalysis. Document terrestrial settings where liquid- or/and supercritical-CO2 is present. Investigate the conditions by which a CO2-rich atmosphere does not lead to Venus-like extreme greenhouse warming by using a 1D Radiative convective transfer model.  Also, consider the spectral and photometric signatures of CO2 worlds that might be detectable with near-future observatories.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Keck Center - Think Tank, Room 155

Time
Event
Speaker
8:30 - 9:00

Coffee and Refreshments

9:00 - 9:30

Logistics / Introduction

Michele Judd

9:30 - 10:15

Review of workshop 1 and to-do items

Team Leads

10:15 - 10:45

Break

10:45 - 12:30

Report-outs on to-do results

All
12:30 - 2:00

Lunch at the Athenaeum

2:00 - 2:30

Discuss purview of breakout groups

All

2:30 - 4:00

Breakout groups

Michele Judd

4:00 - 4:30

Break

4:30 - 5:00

Breakouts coninue as needed

All
5:00 - 5:45

15 minute report outs from groups

All

6:00

Dinner at the Athenaeum on the lawn


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Keck Center - Think Tank, Room 155

Time
Event
Speaker
8:30 - 9:00

Coffee and Refreshments

9:00 - 9:15

Logistics: Summary re-cap of day one and goals for day two

Michele Judd
Team Leads
9:15 - 10:30

Breakout Groups resume

All

10:30 - 11:00

Break

11:00 - 12:30

Breakout Groups continued

All
12:30 - 2:00 

Lunch at the Athenaeum

2:00 - 3:30

Plenary Report of Breakout Groups

All
3:30 - 4:00

Break

4:00 - 5:30 

Lightning talks to close any knowledge gaps as needed

All
6:00 Optional no-host dinner in Pasadena (KISS pays for postdocs and students)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Keck Center - Think Tank, Room 155

Time
Event
Speaker
8:30 - 9:00

Coffee and Refreshments

8:30 - 8:45

Logistics; Summary re-cap of day two and goals for day three

Michele Judd
Team Leads

9:00 - 10:30

Plenary Talk and Discussion

 

10:30 - 11:00

Break

11:00 - 12:30

Reworking of Groups

 

12:30 - 2:00 

Lunch on your own

2:00 - 4:30 

Breakout Groups

All
4:30 - 5:00 

Walk to Lees-Kubota and take break there

5:00 - 6:00

"Lecture: Looking for Life As (we think) We Know It: Enceladus and Europa"

Jonathan Lunine
6:15

Athenaeum Dinner with Guests


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Keck Center - Think Tank, Room 155

Time
Event
Speaker
8:30 - 9:00

Coffee and Refreshments

9:00 - 9:15

Logistics: Summary re-cap of day three and goals for day four

Michele Judd

Team Leads

9:15 - 10:30

Final breakout group report outs and plenary discussion

All

10:30 - 11:00

Break

11:00 - 12:00

Writing assignments, outline of needed illustrations, plan for dissemination of information out to larger community

Study Leads

12:00 -12:30

Workshop path forward

Michele Judd
12:30 - 1:30 

Informal lunch at the Institute

1:30 - 4:30

WRITING SESSION (very important to stay and get as much of this done as possible before everyone leaves)

4:30

Workshop concludes, celebrating ensues

Workshop Participants:

  • Jack Beauchamp - Caltech
  • Patricia Beauchamp - JPL/Caltech
  • Morgan Cable - JPL/Caltech
  • Max Coleman - JPL/Caltech
  • Jessica Creamer - JPL/Caltech
  • Bryana Henderson - JPL/Caltech
  • Robert Hodyss - JPL/Caltech
  • Jonathan Lunine - Cornell University
  • Michael Malaska - JPL/Caltech
  • Helen Maynard-Casely - Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
  • Heather McCaig - JPL/Caltech
  • Eric Parker - Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Martin Rahm - Cornell University
  • Jonathan Sczepanski - Texas A&M University
  • Christophe Sotin - JPL/Caltech
  • James Stevenson - Cornell University
  • Daniel Thomas - Caltech

Workshop Presentations

Raymond Pierrehumbert,
University of Oxford

CO2 Oceans (2.7 MB .pdf)

Jonathan Sczepanski,
Texas A&M University

Talking to the Mirror: In Vitro Evolution of a Cross-Chiral Ribozyme
(10.2 MB .pdf)

Daniel Thomas,
Caltech

Development of a Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Reactor with Online Sampling by Mass Spectometry for Observation of Prebiotic Chemical Reaction Products (2.45 MB .pdf)