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Life on Earth depends on an aqueous biochemistry, and water is a key component of habitability on Earth and for likely other habitable environments in the solar system. While water is ubiquitous in the interstellar medium, and plays a key role in protoplanetary disk chemistry, the inner solar system is relatively dry. We now have evidence for potentially thousands of extrasolar planets, dozens of which may be located in their host stars habitable zones. Understanding how planets in the habitable zone accrete their water, is key to understanding the likelihood for habitability. Given that many disk models show that Earth formed inside the water-ice snow line of our solar system, understanding how the inner solar system received its water is important for understanding the potential for other planetary systems to host habitable worlds. Boundaries for the timing of the water delivery are constrained by cosmochemistry and geochemistry. Possible scenarios for the delivery of water to the inner solar system include adsorption on dust from protoplanetary disk gas, chemical reactions on the early earth, and delivery from planetesimals forming outside the water-ice snow line. This talk will set the stage for understanding the isotopic and geochemical markers along with the dynamical delivery mechanisms that will help uncover the origins of Earths water. This introduction will provide an overview for understanding the distribution of water in the solar system, in particular for the inner solar system and terrestrial planets Xand the details will be developed in the subsequent talks. Additionally information will be presented regarding new inner solar system reservoirs of water that can shed light on origins (the main belt comets), and new research about water in the Earth.
Within a period of ~3 months there were two extended mission flybys of comets. Both encounters have provided an exciting new view of comet activity and volatile composition that is changing our paradigm of these small early solar system remnants. The EPOXI mission flew past the nucleus of comet 103P/Hartley 2 on 4 Nov. 2010. This small nucleus was known to be exceptionally active prior to the encounter, by virtue of a very large water production rate relative to its surface area. Both the encounter and ground-based data showed that comet Hartley 2fs perihelion activity was dominated by sub-surface CO2 outgassing rather than by water, suggesting our classic comet formation picture is not correct. The gas flow carried large grains (up to >10 cm in diameter) from the nucleus, and the icy grains contributed to the large observed water production. The CO2 abundance relative to water varies with rotation between 10-20% between the two lobes of the nucleus. The bi-lobed nucleus is rotating in an excited state, with a period that varied rapidly from ~16.5 hrs to longer than 18.5 hrs over 3 months. The nucleus morphology was different from that of other nuclei visited by space craft, with some regions of rough topography in which surface ice was visible. On 2011 Feb. 14 the Stardust-NExT spacecraft flew past the nucleus of comet 9P/Tempel 1, the target of the Deep Impact (DI) experiment in July 2005. The mission goal was to look at the nucleus after and intervening perihelion passage, extending the surface area imaged during the DI encounter and also image the 2005 impact site. The layering seen during the DI flyby was exhibited over the areas newly imaged in the NExT flyby, and it was found that 30% of the nucleus was covered by smooth deposits that were likely caused by eruption of subsurface materials. Although it has long been known that comets lose on average ~ a meter of their surface per perihelion passage, it was surprising to see that in the regions imaged by both DI and NExT there was little change in the surface photometric properties and morphology with the exception of the prominent smooth flow edges. As seen from both the spacecraft and ground-based campaign, the comet continued its trend of decreasing activity from previous perihelion passages. We will present highlights from both missions and discuss implications for formation scenarios.
Main belt comets (MBCs) are a class of newly discovered objects that exhibit comet-like appearances and yet are dynamically indistinguishable from ordinary main belt asteroids. The measured size and albedo of MBCs are similar to those of classical comets. At present, six MBCs have been discovered, namely 133P/Elst-Pizarro, 176P/LINEAR, 238P/Read, P/2008 R1, P/La Sagra and P/2006 VW139. The total number of active MBCs is estimated to be at the level of a few hundreds (Hsieh & Jewitt, 2006). Several explanations for the activity of MBCs have been suggested. These include impact ejection, sublimation and rotational instability. However, since renewed activity has been observed in 133P and 238P at successive perihelion passages, the most likely explanation may be a thermally-driven process - e.g sublimation of exposed surface ice. Although the proximity of MBCs to the Sun (r ~ 3 AU) makes the survival of surface ice improbable, thermal models have shown that water ice is thermally stable under a regolith layer a few meters thick. The study of MBCs has recently been complicated by the discoveries of two asteroid collisional events (P/2010 A2 (LINEAR) and (596) Scheila) in 2010, where comet-like dust coma/tail have been attributed to recent impacts. If MBCs are indeed icy, they represent the closest and the third established reservoir of comets (after the Oort cloud and the Kuiper belt). As such, they may have been an important source of water for the Earth's oceans. I will review the current state of MBC studies, present the latest observational results and discuss possible mechanisms that could produce the observed activity. I will also talk about current and future space missions that are dedicated or closely related to MBC studies.
Division III, with 1126 members, is the third largest of the 12 IAU Divisions, focusing on subject matter related to the physical study of interplanetary dust, comets, minor planets, satellites, planets, planetary systems and astrobiology. Within the Division are very active working groups that are responsible for planetary system and small body nomenclature, as well as a newly created working group on Near Earth Objects which was established order to investigate the requirements for international ground-and/or space-based NEO surveys to characterize 90% of all NEOs with diameters >40m in order to establish a permanent international NEO Early Warning System.
The CSBN meeting held in Rio de Janeiro on August 11 was attended by just six members, including Pam Kilmartin as the acting chair, and several visitors. Since there was not a quorum of members, it was not possible to make any decisions. But there was a good discussion on many topics, from which several points emerged that should be more fully discussed by the whole committee during the next few months:
The meeting was opened by Ted Bowell, president, at 11 am. The 2006 Division III meetings were reviewed by Guy Consolmagno, secretary; as the minutes of those meetings have already been published, they were assumed to be approved.
Commission 53 on Extrasolar Planets was created at the 2006 Prague General Assembly of the IAU, in recognition of the outburst of astronomical progress in the field of extrasolar planet discovery, characterization, and theoretical work that has occurred since the discovery of the pulsar planets in 1992 and the discovery of the first planet in orbit around a solar-type star in 1995. Commission 53 is the logical successor to the IAU Working Group on Extrasolar Planets WG-ESP, which ended its six years of existence in August 2006. The founding president of Commission 53 is Michael Mayor, in honor of his seminal contributions to this new field of astronomy. The vice-president is Alan Boss, the former chair of the WG-ESP, and the members of the Commission 53 Organizing Committee are the other former members of the WG-ESP.
Bioastronomy: Search for Extraterrestrial Life was established as Commission 51 of the IAU in 1982. The objectives of the commission included: the search for planets around other stars; the search for radio transmissions, intentional or unintentional, of extraterrestrial origin; the search for biologically relevant interstellar molecules and the study of their formation processes; detection methods for potential spectroscopic evidence of biological activity; the coordination of efforts in all these areas at the international level and the establishment of collaborative programs with other international scientific societies with related interests. In 2006, Commission 51 was renamed simply Bioastronomy at the IAU General Assembly in Prague, and approved for the next six years, the default extension for an IAU Commission.
Historically, there have been two main groups dealing with the investigation of extraterrestrial life and habitable worlds. The first is IAU Commission 51, composed of astronomers, physicists and engineers who focus on the search for extrasolar planets, formation and evolution of planetary systems, and the astronomical search for intelligent signals. The second group, the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL), is composed largely of biologists and chemists focusing research on the biogenesis and evolution of life on Earth and in the solar system. There are now a variety of international organizations dedicated to this field, and this triennium has seen the beginnings of coordination and interaction between the groups through the Federation of Astrobiology Organizations, FAO.
The Working Group was formed at the request of the Board of DivisionIII and approved by the IAU Executive committee in March 2004. This was in recognition of the fact that discoveries in the Trans Neptunian region were repeatedly raising the question of “what is a planet”. The task of the WG was to investigate the options available and give indications of the level of support and opposition for each if more than one option was emerging.
The Working Group on Extrasolar Planets (hereafter the WGESP) was created at a meeting of the IAU Executive Council in 1999 as a Working Group of IAU Division III and was renewed for three more years at the IAU General Assembly in 2003. The charge of the WGESP is to act as a focal point for international research on extrasolar planets. The membership of the WGESP has remained unchanged for the last three years.
There are currently five space missions en route to or planned for comet encounters. It is important for the success of each mission that its target be characterized as fully as possible prior to the encounter. This progress report analyses initial photometric results for 11 comet nuclei for the Stardust, Rosetta, Deep Impact, CONTOUR, Deep Space 1, and the proposed Comet Nucleus Sample Return missions from a database of comet CCD images. Our 17-year database contains more than 20,500 images of ∼160 comets taken during > 1,500 observing hours (Pittichová & Meech 2000). We are undertaking a program to observe these 11 comets over a wide range of heliocentric distances to obtain information about their behavior and composition that will be particularly useful to the space missions.
Recent evidence suggests that comets formed at low temperatures (≤ 25 K) and that, while the interiors have not been considerably altered since formation, the outer layers have undergone substantial modification. Comets exhibit a wide range of physical characteristics, some of which may be attributed to systematic physical differences between comets making their first close approach to the Sun from the Oort cloud (new comets) and those having made many approaches (old comets). These differences may reflect either primordial differences between two populations or the differences may be a manifestation of aging processes. There are many processes that might be responsible for causing aging in comets. These include: (i) radiation damage in the upper layers of the nucleus during the long residences in the Oort cloud, (ii) processing from heating and collisions within the Oort cloud, (iii) loss of highly volatile species from the nucleus on the first passage through the inner Solar System, (iv) buildup of a dusty mantle, which can eventually prohibit further sublimation, and (v) a change in the porosity, and hence the thermal properties of the nucleus. Although Oort’s (1950) original work on the comet cloud required that new comets fade after their first close passage, past searches for evidence of aging in comets have produced conflicting results, partly due to a lack of systematic data sets. An understanding of the evolutionary processes of comet nuclei that give rise to compositional or physical differences between ‘fresh’ Oort cloud comets and thermally processed periodic comets will improve our knowledge of the possibly primordial comet composition and therefore conditions in the early Solar System. Recent observations suggest that there are distinct differences between the two groups with respect to intrinsic brightness and rate of change of activity as a function of distance.
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