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  1. #1
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    Astrobiological papers from Arvix and everywhere

    This was created because exobiology papers show up but there's no clear place to put them. Here it is, if no one minds.

    ============================================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1801.07333

    Life Beyond the Solar System: Space Weather and Its Impact on Habitable Worlds

    V. S. Airapetian, W. C. Danchi, C. F. Dong, S. Rugheimer, M. Mlynczak, K. B. Stevenson, W. G. Henning, J. L. Grenfell, M. Jin, A. Glocer, G. Gronoff, B. Lynch, C. Johnstone, T. Lueftinger, M. Guedel, K. Kobayashi, A. Fahrenbach, G. Hallinan, V. Stamenkovic, O. Cohen, W. Kuang, B. van der Holst, C. Manchester, G. Zank, O. Verkhoglyadova, J. Sojka, H. Maehara, Y. Notsu, Y. Yamashiki, K. France, M. Lopez Puertas, B. Funke, C. Jackman, C. Kay, D. Leisawitz, D. Alexander
    (Submitted on 16 Jan 2018)

    The search of life in the Universe is a fundamental problem of astrobiology and a major priority for NASA. A key area of major progress since the NASA Astrobiology Strategy 2015 (NAS15) has been a shift from the exoplanet discovery phase to a phase of characterization and modeling of the physics and chemistry of exoplanetary atmospheres, and the development of observational strategies for the search for life in the Universe by combining expertise from four NASA science disciplines including heliophysics, astrophysics, planetary science and Earth science. The NASA Nexus for Exoplanetary System Science (NExSS) has provided an efficient environment for such interdisciplinary studies. Solar flares, coronal mass ejections and solar energetic particles produce disturbances in interplanetary space collectively referred to as space weather, which interacts with the Earth upper atmosphere and causes dramatic impact on space and ground-based technological systems. Exoplanets within close in habitable zones around M dwarfs and other active stars are exposed to extreme ionizing radiation fluxes, thus making exoplanetary space weather (ESW) effects a crucial factor of habitability. In this paper, we describe the recent developments and provide recommendations in this interdisciplinary effort with the focus on the impacts of ESW on habitability, and the prospects for future progress in searching for signs of life in the Universe as the outcome of the NExSS workshop held in Nov 29 - Dec 2, 2016, New Orleans, LA. This is one of five Life Beyond the Solar System white papers submitted by NExSS to the National Academy of Sciences in support of the Astrobiology Science Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe.

    [[REM]] The eruptive red dwarf problem.

    ============================================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1801.09146

    Different is More: The Value of Finding an Inhabited Planet that is Far From Earth 2.0

    Adrian Lenardic, Johnny Seales
    (Submitted on 27 Jan 2018)

    The search for an inhabited planet, other than our own, is a driver of planetary exploration in our solar system and beyond. Using information from our own planet to inform search strategies allows for a targeted search. It is, however, worth considering some span in the strategy and in a priori expectation. An inhabited Earth-like planet is one that would be similar to Earth in ways that extend beyond having biota. To facilitate analysis, we introduce a metric that extends from zero, for an inhabited planet that is like Earth in all other regards (i.e., zero differences), toward positive or negative values for planets that differ from Earth. The analysis shows how assessment of life potential in our galaxy changes more significantly if we find an inhabited planet that is less Earth-like (i.e., it quantifies how probability assessments improve with deviations from Earth-likeness). Discovering such planets could also provide a test of the strong form of the Gaia hypothesis - a test that has proved difficult using only the Earth as a laboratory. Lastly, we discuss how an Earth2.0 narrative, that has been presented to the public as a search strategy, comes with nostalgia-laden philosophical baggage that does not best serve exploration.

    [[REM]] Methane-based life, hooray!

    ===========================================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1801.06180

    Are Alien Civilizations Technologically Advanced?

    Abraham Loeb
    (Submitted on 18 Jan 2018)

    As we discover numerous habitable planets around other stars in the Milky Way galaxy, including the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, one cannot help but wonder why have we not detected evidence for an advanced alien civilization as of yet. The surfaces of other planets might show either relics of advanced civilizations that destroyed themselves by self-inflicted catastrophes or living civilizations that are technologically primitive. Such circumstances can only be revealed by visiting those planets and not by remote observations.

    [[REM]] WTF, they're either suicides or space barbarians. Hey, interesting!

  2. #2
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    I meant arXiv, of course.

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    https://arxiv.org/abs/1802.07723

    Possible Photometric Signatures of Moderately Advanced Civilizations: The Clarke Exobelt

    Hector Socas-Navarro
    (Submitted on 21 Feb 2018)

    This paper puts forward a possible new indicator for the presence of moderately advanced civilizations on transiting exoplanets. The idea is to examine the region of space around a planet where potential geostationary or geosynchronous satellites would orbit (herafter, the Clarke exobelt). Civilizations with a high density of devices and/or space junk in that region, but otherwise similar to ours in terms of space technology (our working definition of "moderately advanced"), may leave a noticeable imprint on the light curve of the parent star. The main contribution to such signature comes from the exobelt edge, where its opacity is maximum due to geometrical projection. Numerical simulations have been conducted for a variety of possible scenarios. In some cases, a Clarke exobelt with a fractional face-on opacity of ~1E-4 would be easily observable with existing instrumentation. Simulations of Clarke exobelts and natural rings are used to quantify how they can be distinguished by their light curve.

    =========================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1802.00141

    On the bio-habitability of M-dwarf planets

    Amri Wandel
    (Submitted on 1 Feb 2018)

    The recent detection of Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri, Trappist-1 and many other nearby M-type stars has led to speculations, whether liquid water and life actually exist on these planets. To a large extent, the answer depends on their yet unknown atmospheres, which may though be within observational reach in the near future by JWST, ELT and other planned telescopes. We consider the habitability of planets of M-type stars in the context of their atmospheric properties, heat transport and irradiation. Instead of the traditional definition of the habitable zone, we define the bio-habitable zone, where liquid water and complex organic molecules can survive on at least part of the planetary surface. The atmospheric impact on the temperature is quantified in terms of the heating factor (a combination of greenhouse heating, stellar irradiation, albedo etc.) and heat redistribution (horizontal energy transport). We investigate the bio-habitable domain (where planets can support surface liquid water and organics) in terms of these two factors. Our results suggest that planets orbiting M-type stars may have life-supporting temperatures, at least on part of their surface, for a wide range of atmospheric properties. We apply this analyses to Proxima b and the Trappist-1 system. Finally we discuss the implications to the search of biosignatures and demonstrate how they may be used to estimate the abundance of photosynthesis and biotic planets.

  4. #4
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    https://arxiv.org/abs/1802.02180

    Interstellar communication. IX. Message decontamination is impossible

    Michael Hippke, John G. Learned
    (Submitted on 6 Feb 2018)

    A complex message from space may require the use of computers to display, analyze and understand. Such a message cannot be decontaminated with certainty, and technical risks remain which can pose an existential threat. Complex messages would need to be destroyed in the risk averse case.

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    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2018IJAsB..17..147R

    Could photosynthesis function on Proxima Centauri b?

    Ritchie, Raymond J.; Larkum, Anthony W. D.; Ribas, Ignasi
    04/2018

    Could oxygenic and/or anoxygenic photosynthesis exist on planet Proxima Centauri b? Proxima Centauri (spectral type - M5.5 V, 3050 K) is a red dwarf, whereas the Sun is type G2 V (5780 K). The light regimes on Earth and Proxima Centauri b are compared with estimates of the planet's suitability for Chlorophyll a (Chl a) and Chl d-based oxygenic photosynthesis and for bacteriochlorophyll (BChl)-based anoxygenic photosynthesis. Proxima Centauri b has low irradiance in the oxygenic photosynthesis range (400-749 nm: 64-132 µmol quanta m-2 s-1). Much larger amounts of light would be available for BChl-based anoxygenic photosynthesis (350-1100 nm: 724-1538 µmol quanta m-2 s-1). We estimated primary production under these light regimes. We used the oxygenic algae Synechocystis PCC6803, Prochlorothrix hollandica, Acaryochloris marina, Chlorella vulgaris, Rhodomonas sp. and Phaeodactylum tricornutum and the anoxygenic photosynthetic bacteria Rhodopseudomonas palustris (BChl a), Afifella marina (BChl a), Thermochromatium tepidum (BChl a), Chlorobaculum tepidum (BChl a + c) and Blastochloris viridis (BChl b) as representative photosynthetic organisms. Proxima Centauri b has only ~3% of the PAR (400-700 nm) of Earth irradiance, but we found that potential gross photosynthesis (P g) on Proxima Centauri b could be surprisingly high (oxygenic photosynthesis: earth ~0.8 gC m-2 h-1 Proxima Centauri b ~0.14 gC m-2 h-1). The proportion of PAR irradiance useable by oxygenic photosynthetic organisms (the sum of Blue + Red irradiance) is similar for the Earth and Proxima Centauri b. The oxygenic photic zone would be only ~10 m deep in water compared with ~200 m on Earth. The P g of an anoxic Earth (gC m-2 h-1) is ~0.34-0.59 (land) and could be as high as ~0.29-0.44 on Proxima Centauri b. 1 m of water does not affect oxygenic or anoxygenic photosynthesis on Earth, but on Proxima Centauri b oxygenic P g is reduced by ~50%. Effective elimination of near IR limits P g by photosynthetic bacteria (<10% of the surface value). The spectrum of Proxima Centauri b is unfavourable for anoxygenic aquatic photosynthesis. Nevertheless, a substantial aerobic or anaerobic ecology is possible on Proxima Centauri b. Protocols to recognize the biogenic signature of anoxygenic photosynthesis are needed.

    =========================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1711.06692

    Habitable Evaporated Cores and the Occurrence of Panspermia near the Galactic Center

    Howard Chen, John C. Forbes, Abraham Loeb
    (Submitted on 17 Nov 2017 (v1), last revised 29 Jan 2018 (this version, v2))

    Black holes growing via the accretion of gas emit radiation that can photoevaporate the atmospheres of nearby planets. Here we couple planetary structural evolution models of sub-Neptune mass planets to the growth of the Milky way's central supermassive black-hole, Sgr A∗ and investigate how planetary evolution is influenced by quasar activity. We find that, out to ∼20pc from Sgr A∗, the XUV flux emitted during its quasar phase can remove several percent of a planet's H/He envelope by mass; in many cases, this removal results in bare rocky cores, many of which situated in the habitable zones (HZs) of G-type stars. The erosion of sub-Neptune sized planets may be one of the most prevalent channels by which terrestrial super-Earths are created near the Galactic Center. As such, the planet population demographics may be quite different close to Sgr A∗ than in the Galaxy's outskirts. The high stellar densities in this region (about seven orders of magnitude greater than the solar neighborhood) imply that the distance between neighboring rocky worlds is short (500−5000 ~AU). The proximity between potentially habitable terrestrial planets may enable the onset of widespread interstellar panspermia near the nuclei of galaxies. More generally, we predict these phenomena to be ubiquitous for planets in nuclear star clusters and ultra-compact dwarfs. Globular clusters, on the other hand, are less affected by the black holes.

  6. #6
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    Readers of this thread may also want to check out the bimonthly set of links circulated by seti.news, with the obvious more limited topical focus.

  7. #7
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    https://arxiv.org/abs/1803.07717

    The Ice Cap Zone: A Unique Habitable Zone for Ocean Worlds

    Ramses M. Ramirez, Amit Levi
    (Submitted on 21 Mar 2018 (v1), last revised 22 May 2018 (this version, v2))

    Traditional definitions of the habitable zone assume that habitable planets contain a carbonate-silicate cycle that regulates CO2 between the atmosphere, surface, and the interior. Such theories have been used to cast doubt on the habitability of ocean worlds. However, Levi et al (2017) have recently proposed a mechanism by which CO2 is mobilized between the atmosphere and the interior of an ocean world. At high enough CO2 pressures, sea ice can become enriched in CO2 clathrates and sink after a threshold density is achieved. The presence of subpolar sea ice is of great importance for habitability in ocean worlds. It may moderate the climate and is fundamental in current theories of life formation in diluted environments. Here, we model the Levi et al. mechanism and use latitudinally-dependent non-grey energy balance and single-column radiative-convective climate models and find that this mechanism may be sustained on ocean worlds that rotate at least 3 times faster than the Earth. We calculate the circumstellar region in which this cycle may operate for G-M-stars (Teff = 2,600 to 5,800 K), extending from about 1.23 to 1.65, 0.69 to 0.954, 0.38 to 0.528 AU, 0.219 to 0.308 AU, 0.146 to 0.206 AU, and 0.0428 to 0.0617 AU for G2, K2, M0, M3, M5, and M8 stars, respectively. However, unless planets are very young and not tidally locked, our mechanism would be unlikely to apply to stars cooler than a ~M3. We predict C/O ratios for our atmospheres (about 0.5) that can be verified by the JWST mission.

    ===========================

    REVISED version.....

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1806.00018

    Is Extraterrestrial Life Suppressed on Subsurface Ocean Worlds due to the Paucity of Bioessential Elements?

    Manasvi Lingam, Abraham Loeb
    (Submitted on 31 May 2018 (v1), last revised 11 Aug 2018 (this version, v2))

    The availability of bioessential elements for "life as we know it", such as phosphorus (P) or possibly molybdenum (Mo), is expected to restrict the biological productivity of extraterrestrial biospheres. Here, we consider worlds with subsurface oceans and model the dissolved concentrations of bioessential elements. In particular, we focus on the sources and sinks of P (available as phosphates), and find that the average steady-state oceanic concentration of P is likely to be lower than the corresponding value on Earth by a few orders of magnitude, provided that the oceans are alkaline and possess hydrothermal activity. While our result does not eliminate the prospects of life on subsurface worlds like Enceladus, it suggests that the putative biospheres might be oligotrophic, and perhaps harder to detect. Along these lines, potential biospheres in the clouds of Venus may end up being limited by the availability of Mo. We also point out the possibility that stellar spectroscopy can be used to deduce potential constraints on the availability of bioessential elements on planets and moons.

  8. #8
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    Good day Mr. Moore.

    Very good finds, these papers.

    I hope you don't mind a side question though.

    Are you the same Roger E. Moore whos name is associated with Wizards of The Coast and various RPG publications and books?
    Time wasted having fun is not time wasted - Lennon
    (John, not the other one.)

  9. #9
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    Um, yeah, that's me, but that was a long time ago. I tell people I am proudest of being the actual co-inventor of Giant Space Hamsters, with Spelljammer game designer Jeff Grubb. I was editor of Dragon Magazine and other magazines for a long period, then a middle manager for the AD&D game and Greyhawk campaign. Wrote some books, had fun. That was a long time ago, though. Was laid off by Hasbro in Dec 2000 for corporate financial reasons possibly having to do with too many Star Wars figures left unsold for the second trilogy. Who would have thought Jar Jar Binks would be so unpopular? Oh well. At least my sons got literally tons of Pokémon cards for free.

    Thank you for you compliment. Just enjoy being useful here, am a big astronomy fanboy and like to help out. And back on topic...

    ================================================== =

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1710.11134

    Is Life Most Likely Around Sun-like Stars?

    Manasvi Lingam, Abraham Loeb
    (Submitted on 30 Oct 2017 (v1), last revised 7 May 2018 (this version, v2))

    We consider the habitability of Earth-analogs around stars of different masses, which is regulated by the stellar lifetime, stellar wind-induced atmospheric erosion, and biologically active ultraviolet (UV) irradiance. By estimating the timescales associated with each of these processes, we show that they collectively impose limits on the habitability of Earth-analogs. We conclude that planets orbiting most M-dwarfs are not likely to host life, and that the highest probability of complex biospheres is for planets around K- and G-type stars. Our analysis suggests that the current existence of life near the Sun is slightly unusual, but not significantly anomalous.

    =================================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2018Sci...359...16H

    Mars methane rises and falls with the seasons

    Hand, Eric
    01/2018

    On Earth, atmospheric methane is a prominent sign of life. On Mars, the story is more complicated. Trace detections of methane, alongside glimpses of larger spikes, have fueled debates about biological and nonbiological sources of the gas. Now, NASA scientists have announced a new twist in the tale: Methane regularly rises to a peak in late northern summer in a seasonal pattern. The swings are larger than can be explained by the planet's seasonal freeze-thaw cycles. The wiggles are a mystery within a larger mystery: claims of methane spikes an order of magnitude or two higher than the background. Some scientists say meteor showers could be responsible, by depositing carbonaceous material in the atmosphere that reacts to form methane. A close encounter on 24 January with debris from a comet could provide a chance to test the hypothesis.

    ==================================

    Unclear here if "habitability" means "capable of supporting its own lifeforms" or "capable of being colonized by humans," which are NOT the same thing.

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1805.06943

    Long Term Planetary Habitability and the Carbonate-Silicate Cycle

    Andrew J. Rushby, Martin Johnson, Benjamin J.W. Mills, Andrew J. Watson, Mark W. Claire
    (Submitted on 17 May 2018)

    The potential habitability of an exoplanet is traditionally assessed by determining if its orbit falls within the circumstellar `habitable zone' of its star, defined as the distance at which water could be liquid on the surface of a planet (Kopparapu et al., 2013). Traditionally, these limits are determined by radiative-convective climate models, which are used to predict surface temperatures at user-specified levels of greenhouse gases. This approach ignores the vital question of the (bio)geochemical plausibility of the proposed chemical abundances. Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas in Earth's atmosphere in terms of regulating planetary temperature, with the long term concentration controlled by the balance between volcanic outgassing and the sequestration of CO2 via chemical weathering and sedimentation, as modulated by ocean chemistry, circulation and biological (microbial) productivity. We develop a model incorporating key aspects of Earth's short and long-term biogeochemical carbon cycle to explore the potential changes in the CO2 greenhouse due to variance in planet size and stellar insolation. We find that proposed changes in global topography, tectonics, and the hydrological cycle on larger planets results in proportionally greater surface temperatures for a given incident flux. For planets between 0.5 to 2 R_earth the effect of these changes results in average global surface temperature deviations of up to 20 K, which suggests that these relationships must be considered in future studies of planetary habitability.

    ===============================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2018OLEB...48...35C

    Environmental Adaptation from the Origin of Life to the Last Universal Common Ancestor

    Cantine, Marjorie D.; Fournier, Gregory P.
    03/2018

    Extensive fundamental molecular and biological evolution took place between the prebiotic origins of life and the state of the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA). Considering the evolutionary innovations between these two endpoints from the perspective of environmental adaptation, we explore the hypothesis that LUCA was temporally, spatially, and environmentally distinct from life's earliest origins in an RNA world. Using this lens, we interpret several molecular biological features as indicating an environmental transition between a cold, radiation-shielded origin of life and a mesophilic, surface-dwelling LUCA. Cellularity provides motility and permits Darwinian evolution by connecting genetic material and its products, and thus establishing heredity and lineage. Considering the importance of compartmentalization and motility, we propose that the early emergence of cellularity is required for environmental dispersal and diversification during these transitions. Early diversification and the emergence of ecology before LUCA could be an important pre-adaptation for life's persistence on a changing planet.

    ================================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2018arXiv180204279V

    Dynamical and biological panspermia constraints within multi-planet exosystems

    Veras, Dimitri; Armstrong, David J.; Blake, James A.; Gutierrez-Marcos, Jose F.; Jackson, Alan P.; Schaefer, Hendrik
    02/2018

    As discoveries of multiple planets in the habitable zone of their parent star mount, developing analytical techniques to quantify extrasolar intra-system panspermia will become increasingly important. Here, we provide user-friendly prescriptions that describe the asteroid impact characteristics which would be necessary to transport life both inwards and outwards within these systems within a single framework. Our focus is on projectile generation and delivery and our expressions are algebraic, eliminating the need for the solution of differential equations. We derive a probability distribution function for life-bearing debris to reach a planetary orbit, and describe the survival of micro-organisms during planetary ejection, their journey through interplanetary space, and atmospheric entry.

    ==============================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2018IJAsB..17....1M

    Sea ice, extremophiles and life on extra-terrestrial ocean worlds

    Martin, Andrew; McMinn, Andrew
    01/2018

    The primary aim of this review is to highlight that sea-ice microbes would be capable of occupying ice-associated biological niches on Europa and Enceladus. These moons are compelling targets for astrobiological exploration because of the inferred presence of subsurface oceans that have persisted over geological timescales. Although potentially hostile to life in general, Europa and Enceladus may still harbour biologically permissive domains associated with the ice, ocean and seafloor environments. However, validating sources of free energy is challenging, as is qualifying possible metabolic processes or ecosystem dynamics. Here, the capacity for biological adaptation exhibited by microorganisms that inhabit sea ice is reviewed. These ecosystems are among the most relevant Earth-based analogues for considering life on ocean worlds because microorganisms must adapt to multiple physicochemical extremes. In future, these organisms will likely play a significant role in defining the constraints on habitability beyond Earth and developing a mechanistic framework that contrasts the limits of Earth's biosphere with extra-terrestrial environments of interest.

    ======================================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2018AAS...23143923F

    Developing Tighter Constraints on Exoplanet Biosignatures by Modeling Atmospheric Haze

    Felton, Ryan; Neveu, Marc; Domagal-Goldman, Shawn David; Desch, Steven; Arney, Giada
    01/2018

    As we increase our capacity to resolve the atmospheric composition of exoplanets, we must continue to refine our ability to distinguish true biosignatures from false positives in order to ultimately distinguish a life-bearing from a lifeless planet. Of the possible true and false biosignatures, methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) are of interest, because on Earth geological and biological processes can produce them on large scales. To identify a biotic, Earth-like exoplanet, we must understand how these biosignatures shape their atmospheres. High atmospheric abundances of CH4 produce photochemical organic haze, which dramatically alters the photochemistry, climate, and spectrum of a planet. Arney et al. (2017) have suggested that haze-bearing atmospheres rich in CO2 may be a type of biosignature because the CH4 flux required to produce the haze is similar to the amount of biogenic CH4 on modern Earth. Atmospheric CH4 and CO2 both affect haze-formation photochemistry, and the potential for hazes to form in Earth-like atmospheres at abiotic concentrations of these gases has not been well studied. We will explore a wide range of parameter space of abiotic concentration levels of these gases to determine what spectral signatures are possible from abiotic environments and look for measurable differences between abiotic and biotic atmospheres. We use a 1D photochemical model with an upgraded haze production mechanism to compare Archean and modern Earth atmospheres to abiotic versions while varying atmospheric CH4 and CO2 levels and atmospheric pressure. We will vary CO2 from a trace gas to an amount such that it dominates atmospheric chemistry. For CH4, there is uncertainty regarding the amount of abiotic CH4 that comes from serpentinizing systems. To address this uncertainty, we will model three cases: 1) assume all CH4 comes from photochemistry; 2) use estimates of modern-day serpentinizing fluxes, assuming they are purely abiotic; and 3) assume serpentinizing systems saturate oceans with methane.
    Last edited by Roger E. Moore; 2018-Aug-14 at 08:53 PM.

  10. #10
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    Panspermia is here to stay, it seems.


    https://arxiv.org/abs/1803.03270

    Delivery of organics to Mars through asteroid and comet impacts

    Kateryna Frantseva, Michael Mueller, Inge Loes ten Kate, Floris F.S. van der Tak, Sarah Greenstreet
    (Submitted on 8 Mar 2018)

    Given rapid photodissociation and photodegradation, the recently discovered organics in the Martian subsurface and atmosphere were probably delivered in geologically recent times. Possible parent bodies are C-type asteroids, comets, and interplanetary dust particles (IDPs). The dust infall rate was estimated, using different methods, to be between 0.71 and 2.96×10^6 kg/yr (Nesvorny et al., 2011, Borin et al., 2017, Crismani et al., 2017); assuming a carbon content of 10% (Flynn, 1996), this implies an IDP carbon flux of 0.07−0.3×10^6 kg/yr. We calculate for the first time the carbon flux from impacts of asteroids and comets. To this end, we perform dynamical simulations of impact rates on Mars. We use the N-body integrator RMVS/Swifter to propagate the Sun and the eight planets from their current positions. We separately add comets and asteroids to the simulations as massless test particles, based on their current orbital elements, yielding Mars impact rates of 4.34×10^−3 comets/Myr and 3.3 asteroids/Myr. We estimate the global carbon flux on Mars from cometary impacts to be ∼0.013×10^6 ~kg/yr within an order of magnitude, while asteroids deliver ∼0.05×10^6 ~kg/yr. These values correspond to ∼4−19% and ∼17−71%, respectively, of the IDP-borne carbon flux estimated by Nesvorny et al. 2011, Borin et al. 2017 and Crismani et al. 2017. Unlike the spatially homogeneous IDP infall, impact ejecta are distributed locally, concentrated around the impact site. We find organics from asteroids and comets to dominate over IDP-borne organics at distances up to 150~km from the crater center. Our results may be important for the interpretation of in situ detections of organics on Mars.

    ============================

    I keep thinking of the intelligent lemurs from Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men.


    https://arxiv.org/abs/1704.07263

    Prior Indigenous Technological Species

    Jason T. Wright
    (Submitted on 24 Apr 2017 (v1), last revised 30 Apr 2017 (this version, v2))

    One of the primary open questions of astrobiology is whether there is extant or extinct life elsewhere the Solar System. Implicit in much of this work is that we are looking for microbial or, at best, unintelligent life, even though technological artifacts might be much easier to find. SETI work on searches for alien artifacts in the Solar System typically presumes that such artifacts would be of extrasolar origin, even though life is known to have existed in the Solar System, on Earth, for eons. But if a prior technological, perhaps spacefaring, species ever arose in the Solar System, it might have produced artifacts or other technosignatures that have survived to present day, meaning Solar System artifact SETI provides a potential path to resolving astrobiology's question. Here, I discuss the origins and possible locations for technosignatures of such a prior indigenous technological species, which might have arisen on ancient Earth or another body, such as a pre-greenhouse Venus or a wet Mars. In the case of Venus, the arrival of its global greenhouse and potential resurfacing might have erased all evidence of its existence on the Venusian surface. In the case of Earth, erosion and, ultimately, plate tectonics may have erased most such evidence if the species lived Gyr ago. Remaining indigenous technosignatures might be expected to be extremely old, limiting the places they might still be found to beneath the surfaces of Mars and the Moon, or in the outer Solar System.

    ==========================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1708.07433

    The Impact of the Temporal Distribution of Communicating Civilizations on their Detectability

    Amedeo Balbi
    (Submitted on 24 Aug 2017)

    We use a statistical model to investigate the detectability (defined by the requirement that they are in causal contact with us) of communicating civilizations within a volume of the universe surrounding our location. If the civilizations are located in our Galaxy, the detectability requirement imposes a strict constraint on their epoch of appearance and their communicating lifespan. This, in turn, implies that the fraction of civilizations of which we can find any empirical evidence strongly depends on the specific features of their temporal distribution. Our approach shed light on aspects of the problem that can escape the standard treatment based on the Drake equation. Therefore, it might provide the appropriate framework for future studies dealing with the evolutionary aspects of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).

    ===============================

    This one is a bit out there, but I like it.


    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2018IJAsB..17..258E

    Engineering a lunar photolithoautotroph to thrive on the moon - life or simulacrum?

    Ellery, A. A.
    07/2018

    Recent work in developing self-replicating machines has approached the problem as an engineering problem, using engineering materials and methods to implement an engineering analogue of a hitherto uniquely biological function. The question is - can anything be learned that might be relevant to an astrobiological context in which the problem is to determine the general form of biology independent of the Earth. Compared with other non-terrestrial biology disciplines, engineered life is more demanding. Engineering a self-replicating machine tackles real environments unlike artificial life which avoids the problem of physical instantiation altogether by examining software models. Engineering a self-replicating machine is also more demanding than synthetic biology as no library of functional components exists. Everything must be constructed de novo. Biological systems already have the capacity to self-replicate but no engineered machine has yet been constructed with the same ability - this is our primary goal. On the basis of the von Neumann analysis of self-replication, self-replication is a by-product of universal construction capability - a universal constructor is a machine that can construct anything (in a functional sense) given the appropriate instructions (DNA/RNA), energy (ATP) and materials (food). In the biological cell, the universal construction mechanism is the ribosome. The ribosome is a biological assembly line for constructing proteins while DNA constitutes a design specification. For a photoautotroph, the energy source is ambient and the food is inorganic. We submit that engineering a self-replicating machine opens up new areas of astrobiology to be explored in the limits of life.

    ==============================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2018IJAsB..17..239L

    Low-latency teleoperations, planetary protection, and astrobiology

    Lupisella, Mark L.
    07/2018

    The remote operation of an asset with time-delays short enough to allow for `real-time' or near real-time control - often referred to as low-latency teleoperations (LLT) - has important potential to address planetary protection concerns and to enhance astrobiology exploration. Not only can LLT assist with the search for extraterrestrial life and help mitigate planetary protection concerns as required by international treaty, but it can also aid in the real-time exploration of hazardous areas, robotically manipulate samples in real-time, and engage in precise measurements and experiments without the presence of crew in the immediate area. Furthermore, LLT can be particularly effective for studying `Special Regions' - areas of astrobiological interest that might be adversely affected by forward contamination from humans or spacecraft contaminants during activities on Mars. LLT can also aid human exploration by addressing concerns about backward contamination that could impact mission details for returning Martian samples and crew back to Earth.This paper provides an overview of LLT operational considerations and findings from recent NASA analyses and workshops related to planetary protection and human missions beyond Earth orbit. The paper focuses primarily on three interrelated areas of Mars operations that are particularly relevant to the planetary protection and the search for life: Mars orbit-to-surface LLT activities; Crew-on-surface and drilling LLT; and Mars surface science laboratory LLT. The paper also discusses several additional mission implementation considerations and closes with information on key knowledge gaps identified as necessary for the advance of LLT for planetary protection and astrobiology purposes on future human missions to Mars.

    ============================================

    https://www.cambridge.org/core/servi...73550418000150

    Editorial for Special Issue on Robotic Astrobiology

    Alex Ellery
    2018

    ===========================================

  11. #11
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    https://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/oc...8/pdf/6044.pdf

    ASTROBIOLOGY AT THE WATER-ROCK INTERFACE IN ICY OCEAN WORLDS

    S. D. Vance, L. M. Barge, R. Hodyss, P. V. Johnson, M. J. Russell, I. Kanik, and the NAI Icy Worlds team (JPL)

    Astrobiology at water-rock interfaces found on icy bodies such as Europa and Enceladus is the unifying theme of the JPL Icy Worlds team. The NAI funded effort, now heading into its 4th year of 5, is organized into four thematic investigations, led by the main authors of this work.

    =============================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2018Icar..305...84N

    Atmospheric dynamics and habitability range in Earth-like aquaplanets obliquity simulations

    Nowajewski, Priscilla; Rojas, M.; Rojo, P.; Kimeswenger, S.
    05/2018

    We present the evolution of the atmospheric variables that affect planetary climate by increasing the obliquity by using a general circulation model (PlaSim) coupled to a slab ocean with mixed layer flux correction. We increase the obliquity between 30° and 90° in 16 aquaplanets with liquid sea surface and perform the simulation allowing the sea ice cover formation to be a consequence of its atmospheric dynamics. Insolation is maintained constant in each experiment, but changing the obliquity affects the radiation budget and the large scale circulation. Earth-like atmospheric dynamics is observed for planets with obliquity under 54°. Above this value, the latitudinal temperature gradient is reversed giving place to a new regime of jet streams, affecting the shape of Hadley and Ferrel cells and changing the position of the InterTropical Convergence Zone. As humidity and high temperatures determine Earth's habitability, we introduce the wet bulb temperature as an atmospheric index of habitability for Earth-like aquaplanets with above freezing temperatures. The aquaplanets are habitable all year round at all latitudes for values under 54°; above this value habitability decreases toward the poles due to high temperatures.

    =======================

    OZMA II? III? Beats me.


    https://arxiv.org/abs/1802.01081

    A search for technosignatures from 14 planetary systems in the Kepler field with the Green Bank Telescope at 1.15-1.73 GHz

    Jean-Luc Margot, Adam H. Greenberg, Pavlo Pinchuk, Akshay Shinde, Yashaswi Alladi, Srinivas Prasad MN, M. Oliver Bowman, Callum Fisher, Szilard Gyalay, Willow McKibbin, Brittany Miles, Donald Nguyen, Conor Power, Namrata Ramani, Rashmi Raviprasad, Jesse Santana, Ryan S. Lynch
    (Submitted on 4 Feb 2018 (v1), last revised 30 Mar 2018 (this version, v2))

    Analysis of Kepler mission data suggests that the Milky Way includes billions of Earth-like planets in the habitable zone of their host star. Current technology enables the detection of technosignatures emitted from a large fraction of the Galaxy. We describe a search for technosignatures that is sensitive to Arecibo-class transmitters located within ~420 ly of Earth and transmitters that are 1000 times more effective than Arecibo within ~13 000 ly of Earth. Our observations focused on 14 planetary systems in the Kepler field and used the L-band receiver (1.15-1.73 GHz) of the 100 m diameter Green Bank Telescope. Each source was observed for a total integration time of 5 minutes. We obtained power spectra at a frequency resolution of 3 Hz and examined narrowband signals with Doppler drift rates between +/-9 Hz/s. We flagged any detection with a signal-to-noise ratio in excess of 10 as a candidate signal and identified approximately 850 000 candidates. Most (99%) of these candidate signals were automatically classified as human-generated radio-frequency interference (RFI). A large fraction (>99%) of the remaining candidate signals were also flagged as anthropogenic RFI because they have frequencies that overlap those used by global navigation satellite systems, satellite downlinks, or other interferers detected in heavily polluted regions of the spectrum. All 19 remaining candidate signals were scrutinized and none were attributable to an extraterrestrial source.

    =========================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2018IJAsB..17..189M

    Philosophy and data in astrobiology

    Mix, Lucas John
    04/2018

    Creating a unified model of life in the universe - history, extent and future - requires both scientific and humanities research. One way that humanities can contribute is by investigating the relationship between philosophical commitments and data. Making those commitments transparent allows scientists to use the data more fully. Insights in four areas - history, ethics, religion and probability - demonstrate the value of careful, astrobiology-specific humanities research for improving how we talk and think about astrobiology as a whole. First, astrobiology has a long and influential history. Second, astrobiology does not decentre humanity, either physically or ethically. Third, astrobiology is broadly compatible with major world religions. Finally, claims about the probability of life arising or existing elsewhere rest heavily on philosophical priors. In all four cases, identifying philosophical commitments clarifies the ways in which data can tell us about life.

    ===================================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1801.10551

    Decrease in hysteresis of planetary climate for planets with long solar days

    Dorian S. Abbot, Jonah Bloch-Johnson, Jade Checlair, Navah X. Farahat, R.J. Graham, David Plotkin, Predrag Popovic, and Francisco Spaulding-Astudillo
    (Submitted on 31 Jan 2018)

    The ice-albedo feedback on rapidly-rotating terrestrial planets in the habitable zone can lead to abrupt transitions (bifurcations) between a warm and a snowball (ice-covered) state, bistability between these states, and hysteresis in planetary climate. This is important for planetary habitability because snowball events may trigger rises in the complexity of life, but could also endanger complex life that already exists. Recent work has shown that planets tidally locked in synchronous rotation states will transition smoothly into the snowball state rather than experiencing bifurcations. Here we investigate the structure of snowball bifurcations on planets that are tidally influenced, but not synchronously rotating, so that they experience long solar days. We use PlaSIM, an intermediate-complexity global climate model, with a thermodynamic mixed layer ocean and the Sun's spectrum. We find that the amount of hysteresis (range in stellar flux for which there is bistability in climate) is significantly reduced or solar days with lengths of tens of Earth days, and disappears for solar days of hundreds of Earth days. These results suggest that tidally influenced planets orbiting M and K-stars that are not synchronously rotating could have much less hysteresis associated with the snowball bifurcations than they would if they were rapidly rotating. This implies that the amount of time it takes them to escape a snowball state via CO2 outgassing would be greatly reduced, as would the period of cycling between the warm and snowball state if they have a low CO2 outgassing rate.

  12. #12
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    https://link.springer.com/article/10...084-010-9200-7

    What Possible Life Forms Could Exist on Other Planets: A Historical Overview

    Raulin Cerceau, Florence
    04/2010

    Speculations on living beings existing on other planets are found in many written works since the Frenchman Bernard de Fontenelle spoke to the Marquise about the inhabitants of the solar system in his Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes (1686). It was an entertainment used to teach astronomy more than real considerations about the habitability of our solar system, but it opened the way to some reflections about the possible life forms on other planets. The nineteenth century took up this idea again in a context of planetary studies showing the similarities as well as the differences of the celestial bodies orbiting our Sun. Astronomers attempted to look deeper into the problem of habitability such as Richard Proctor or Camille Flammarion, also well-known for their fine talent in popular writings. While the Martian canals controversy was reaching its height, they imagined how the living forms dwelling in other planets could be. Nowadays, no complex exo-life is expected to have evolved in our solar system. However, the famous exobiologist Carl Sagan and later other scientists, formulated audacious ideas about other forms of life in the light of recent discoveries in planetology. Through these few examples, this paper underlines the originality of each author’s suggestions and the evolution and contrast of ideas about the possible life forms in the universe.

    ===================================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/cgi-bin/n...;filetype=.pdf

    Swansong Biospheres: The biosignatures of inhabited earth-like planets nearing the end of their habitable lifetimes

    O'Malley-James, Jack T.; Greaves, Jane S.; Raven, John A.; Cockell, Charles S.
    01/2014

    The biosignatures of life on Earth are not fixed, but change with time as environmental conditions change and life living within those environments adapts to the new conditions. A latitude-based climate model, incorporating orbital parameter variations, was used to simulate conditions on the far-future Earth as the Sun enters the late main sequence. Over time, conditions increasingly favour a unicellular microbial biosphere, which can persist for a maximum of 2.8 Gyr from present. The biosignature changes associated with the likely biosphere changes are evaluated using a biosphere-atmosphere gas exchange model and their detectability is discussed. As future Earth-like exoplanet discoveries could be habitable planets nearing the end of their habitable lifetimes, this helps inform the search for the signatures of life beyond Earth.

  13. #13
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    https://arxiv.org/abs/1805.02801

    A Methane Extension to the Classical Habitable Zone

    Ramses M. Ramirez, Lisa Kaltenegger
    (Submitted on 8 May 2018)

    The habitable zone (HZ) is the circumstellar region where standing bodies of liquid water could exist on the surface of a rocky planet. Conventional definitions assume that CO2 and H2O are the only greenhouse gases. The outer edge of this classical N2-CO2-H2O HZ extends out to nearly 1.7 AU in our solar system, beyond which condensation and scattering by CO2 outstrip its greenhouse capacity. We use a single column radiative-convective climate model to assess the greenhouse effect of CH4 (10 to about 100,000 ppm) on the classical habitable zone (N2-CO2-H2O) for main-sequence stars with stellar temperatures between 2,600 to 10,000 K (about A3 to M8). Assuming N2-CO2-H2O atmospheres, previous studies have shown that cooler stars more effectively heat terrestrial planets. However, we find that the addition of CH4 produces net greenhouse warming (tens of degrees) in planets orbiting stars hotter than a mid-K (about 4500K), whereas a prominent anti-greenhouse effect is noted for planets around cooler stars. We show that 10% CH4 can increase the width of the classical HZ of the hottest stars (TEFF = 10,000 K) by over 20%. In contrast, the CH4 anti-greenhouse can shrink the HZ for the coolest stars (TEFF = 2,600 K) by a similar percentage. We find that dense CO2-CH4 atmospheres near the outer edge of hotter stars may suggest inhabitance, highlighting the importance of including secondary greenhouse gases in alternative definitions of the HZ. We parameterize the limits of this N2-CO2-H2O-CH4 habitable zone and discuss implications in the search for extraterrestrial life.

    ===================================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1803.07570

    Optimal Target Stars in the Search for Life

    Manasvi Lingam, Abraham Loeb
    (Submitted on 20 Mar 2018 (v1), last revised 20 Apr 2018 (this version, v2))

    The selection of optimal targets in the search for life represents a highly important strategic issue. In this Letter, we evaluate the benefits of searching for life around a potentially habitable planet orbiting a star of arbitrary mass relative to a similar planet around a Sun-like star. If recent physical arguments implying that the habitability of planets orbiting low-mass stars is selectively suppressed are correct, we find that planets around solar-type stars may represent the optimal targets.

    ===================================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1712.10027

    Spectra of Earth-like Planets Through Geological Evolution Around FGKM Stars

    Sarah Rugheimer, Lisa Kaltenegger
    (Submitted on 28 Dec 2017)

    Future observations of terrestrial exoplanet atmospheres will occur for planets at different stages of geological evolution. We expect to observe a wide variety of atmospheres and planets with alternative evolutionary paths, with some planets resembling Earth at different epochs. For an Earth-like atmospheric time trajectory, we simulate planets from prebiotic to current atmosphere based on geological data. We use a stellar grid F0V to M8V (Teff = 7000K to 2400K) to model four geological epochs of Earth's history corresponding to a prebiotic world (3.9 Ga), the rise of oxygen at 2.0 Ga and at 0.8 Ga, and the modern Earth. We show the VIS - IR spectral features, with a focus on biosignatures through geological time for this grid of Sun-like host stars and the effect of clouds on their spectra. We find that the observability of biosignature gases reduces with increasing cloud cover and increases with planetary age. The observability of the visible O2 feature for lower concentrations will partly depend on clouds, which while slightly reducing the feature increase the overall reflectivity thus the detectable flux of a planet. The depth of the IR ozone feature contributes substantially to the opacity at lower oxygen concentrations especially for the high near-UV stellar environments around F stars. Our results are a grid of model spectra for atmospheres representative of Earth's geological history to inform future observations and instrument design and are publicly available online.

    ===================================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1710.00435

    Demarcating circulation regimes of synchronously rotating terrestrial planets within the habitable zone

    Jacob Haqq-Misra, Eric. T. Wolf, Manoj Joshi, Xi Zhang, Ravi Kumar Kopparapu
    (Submitted on 1 Oct 2017 (v1), last revised 2 Dec 2017 (this version, v2))

    We investigate the atmospheric dynamics of terrestrial planets in synchronous rotation within the habitable zone of low-mass stars using the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM). The surface temperature contrast between day and night hemispheres decreases with an increase in incident stellar flux, which is opposite the trend seen on gas giants. We define three dynamical regimes in terms of the equatorial Rossby deformation radius and the Rhines length. The slow rotation regime has a mean zonal circulation that spans from day to night side, with both the Rossby deformation radius and the Rhines length exceeding planetary radius, which occurs for planets around stars with effective temperatures of 3300 K to 4500 K (rotation period > 20 days). Rapid rotators have a mean zonal circulation that partially spans a hemisphere and with banded cloud formation beneath the substellar point, with the Rossby deformation radius is less than planetary radius, which occurs for planets orbiting stars with effective temperatures of less than 3000 K (rotation period < 5 days). In between is the Rhines rotation regime, which retains a thermally-direct circulation from day to night side but also features midlatitude turbulence-driven zonal jets. Rhines rotators occur for planets around stars in the range of 3000 K to 3300 K (rotation period ~ 5 to 20 days), where the Rhines length is greater than planetary radius but the Rossby deformation radius is less than planetary radius. The dynamical state can be observationally inferred from comparing the morphology of the thermal emission phase curves of synchronously rotating planets.

    =======================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1802.06856

    The Habitable Zone of Kepler-16: Impact of Binarity and Climate Models

    S. Y. Moorman, B. L. Quarles, Zh. Wang, M. Cuntz
    (Submitted on 21 Jan 2018 (v1), last revised 21 Feb 2018 (this version, v2))

    We continue to investigate the binary system Kepler-16, consisting of a K-type main-sequence star, a red dwarf, and a circumbinary Saturnian planet. As part of our study, we describe the system's habitable zone based on different climate models. We also report on stability investigations for possible Earth-mass Trojans while expanding a previous study by B. L. Quarles and collaborators given in 2012. For the climate models we carefully consider the relevance of the system's parameters. Furthermore, we pursue new stability simulations for the Earth-mass objects starting along the orbit of Kepler-16b. The eccentricity distribution as obtained prefers values close to circular, whereas the inclination distribution remains flat. The stable solutions are distributed near the co-orbital Lagrangian points, thus enhancing the plausibility that Earth-mass Trojans might be able to exist in the Kepler-16(AB) system.

  14. #14
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    Food for thought...

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/full/1976ApJS...32..737S

    Particles, environments and possible ecologies in the Jovian atmosphere

    Sagan, C.; Salpeter, E. E.
    12/1976

    The eddy diffusion coefficient is estimated as a function of altitude, separately for the Jovian troposphere and mesosphere. Complex organic molecules produced by the Ly alpha photolysis of methane may possibly be the absorbers in the lower mesosphere which account for the low reflectivity of Jupiter in the near ultraviolet. The optical frequency chromophores are localized at or just below the Jovian tropopause. Candidate chromophore molecules must satisfy the condition that they are produced sufficiently rapidly that convective pyrolysis maintains the observed chromophore optical depth. The condition is satisfied if complex organic chromophores are produced with high quantum yield by NH3 photolysis at less than 2,300 A. Jovian photoautotrophs in the upper troposphere satisfy this condition well, even with fast circulation, assuming only biochemical properties of comparable terrestrial organisms. An organism in the form of a thin, gas filled balloon can grow fast enough to replicate if (1) it can survive at the low mesospheric temperatures, or if (2) photosynthesis occurs in the troposphere.

    ===============================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2012elbe.workE...5S

    Assessing Planetary Habitability: Don't Forget Exotic Life!

    Schulze-Makuch, Dirk
    05/2012

    With the confirmed detection of more than 700 exoplanets, the temptation looms large to constrain the search for extraterrestrial life to Earth-type planets, which have a similar distance to their star, a similar radius, mass and density. Yet, a look even within our Solar System points to a variety of localities to which life could have adapted to outside of the so-called Habitable Zone (HZ). Examples include the hydrocarbon lakes on Titan, the subsurface ocean environment of Europa, the near- surface environment of Mars, and the lower atmosphere of Venus. Recent Earth analog work and extremophile investigations support this notion, such as the discovery of a large microbial community in a liquid asphalt lake in Trinidad (as analog to Titan) or the discovery of a cryptoendolithic habitat in the Antarctic desert, which exists inside rocks, such as beneath sandstone surfaces and dolerite clasts, and supports a variety of eukaryotic algae, fungi, and cyanobacteria (as analog to Mars). We developed a Planetary Habitability Index (PHI, Schulze-Makuch et al., 2011), which was developed to prioritize exoplanets not based on their similarity to Earth, but whether the extraterrestrial environment could, in principle, be a suitable habitat for life. The index includes parameters that are considered to be essential for life such as the presence of a solid substrate, an atmosphere, energy sources, polymeric chemistry, and liquids on the planetary surface. However, the index does not require that this liquid is water or that the energy source is light (though the presence of light is a definite advantage). Applying the PHI to our Solar System, Earth comes in first, with Titan second, and Mars third.

    ===============================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2017AGUFM.P53E2677W

    Looking for a hypothetical jovian metabolisms to explain a paucity of ammonia

    Wong, M. L.
    12/2017

    One startling find from Juno's reconnaissance of Jupiter is a factor-of-two depletion from expected concentrations of NH3 in the 7-bar region of the atmosphere. Here, we investigate hypothetical NH3-consuming metabolisms of putative jovian life. Classically, astrobiologists state life's requirements as: liquid water, sources of CHNOPS, and the availability of free energy. On Jupiter, water clouds condense at a pressure of 7 bars—a region where the temperature is 300 K—providing droplets of liquid water. With its tight gravitational grip on hydrogen, Jupiter has bountiful reductants containing CHNOPS in the form of H2O, CH4, H2S, NH3, and PH3. However, the O-rich oxidants often considered for astrobiological systems on other worlds are largely absent. Instead, hypothetical metabolisms may rely on sulfur species as electron acceptors. Exposed to ultraviolet radiation, H2S will photolyze and react to form polysulfur (Sx, where x ≥ 8). Polysulfur may contribute to the coloration of Jupiter's upper atmosphere, particularly of the Great Red Spot. Polysulfur that rains down to the region of Jupiter's atmosphere where liquid water exists can provide significant redox disequilibrium from which free energy can be liberated. For instance, the reaction 16/3 NH3 + S8 ⟶ 8 H2S + 8/3 N2has a ΔG = -38.8 kJ per mol NH3 at 300 K and 7 bars. This reaction is promising in that: 1) it recycles S8 back to H2S, which can then be lofted to higher altitudes and create more S8; 2) it creates N2, which Juno cannot detect using its microwave radiometer. In order to be a plausible metabolism, we must show: 1) that this reaction is kinetically inhibited, i.e. that abiotic processes cannot easily resolve this disequilibrium; 2) that enough S8 is produced photochemically and is transported to the 7 bar region on short enough timescales to provide the requisite disequilibrium. Finally, copious lightning in the water cloud region—the flash rate has been estimated to be 30 flashes year-1 km-2—may offer more disequilibria for life. Using a combination of thermodynamic calculations, photochemical modeling, and order-of-magnitude arguments, we will assess the possibilities of NH3-consuming metabolisms like the one above, and compare the total energy that they can deliver to that needed for Sagan & Salpeter's (1976) ecosystem of "floaters" and "sinkers."

    =============================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1708.04241

    Risks for Life on Habitable Planets from Superflares of Their Host Stars

    Lingam, Manasvi; Loeb, Abraham
    10/2017

    We explore some of the ramifications arising from superflares on the evolutionary history of Earth, other planets in the solar system, and exoplanets. We propose that the most powerful superflares can serve as plausible drivers of extinction events, and that their periodicity corresponds to certain patterns in the terrestrial fossil diversity record. On the other hand, weaker superflares may play a positive role in enabling the origin of life through the formation of key organic compounds. Superflares could also prove to be quite detrimental to the evolution of complex life on present-day Mars and exoplanets in the habitable zone of M- and K-dwarfs. We conclude that the risk posed by superflares has not been sufficiently appreciated, and that humanity might potentially witness a superflare event in the next ˜ {10}3 years, leading to devastating economic and technological losses. In light of the many uncertainties and assumptions associated with our analysis, we recommend that these results should be viewed with due caution.

    ===============================

    https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/ast.2015.1460

    The Astrobiology Primer v2.0

    Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman (Co-Lead Editor, Co-Editor Chapter 1, and Author) Katherine E. Wright (Co-Lead Editor, Co-Editor Chapter 1, and Author) Katarzyna Adamala (Co-Editor Chapter 3 and Author), et al.
    1 Aug 2016

    [[VERY large article, highly detailed, worth a look]]

    ==============================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1601.05112

    Kardashev's Classification at 50+: A Fine Vehicle with Room for Improvement

    Milan M. Cirkovic
    (Submitted on 7 Jan 2016)

    We review the history and status of the famous classification of extraterrestrial civilizations given by the great Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Semenovich Kardashev, roughly half a century after it has been proposed. While Kardashev's classification (or Kardashev's scale) has often been seen as oversimplified, and multiple improvements, refinements, and alternatives to it have been suggested, it is still one of the major tools for serious theoretical investigation of SETI issues. During these 50+ years, several attempts at modifying or reforming the classification have been made; we review some of them here, together with presenting some of the scenarios which present difficulties to the standard version. Recent results in both theoretical and observational SETI studies, especially the G-hat infrared survey (2014-2015), have persuasively shown that the emphasis on detectability inherent in Kardashev's classification obtains new significance and freshness. Several new movements and conceptual frameworks, such as the Dysonian SETI, tally extremely well with these developments. So, the apparent simplicity of the classification is highly deceptive: Kardashev's work offers a wealth of still insufficiently studied methodological and epistemological ramifications and it remains, in both letter and spirit, perhaps the worthiest legacy of the SETI "founding fathers".

    =============================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1310.4841

    Swansong Biospheres II: The final signs of life on terrestrial planets near the end of their habitable lifetimes

    Jack T. O'Malley-James, Charles S. Cockell, Jane S. Greaves, John. A. Raven
    (Submitted on 17 Oct 2013)

    The biosignatures of life on Earth do not remain static, but change considerably over the planet's habitable lifetime. Earth's future biosphere, much like that of the early Earth, will consist of predominantly unicellular microorganisms due to the increased hostility of environmental conditions caused by the Sun as it enters the late stage of its main sequence evolution. Building on previous work, the productivity of the biosphere is evaluated during different stages of biosphere decline between 1 Gyr and 2.8 Gyr from present. A simple atmosphere-biosphere interaction model is used to estimate the atmospheric biomarker gas abundances at each stage and to assess the likelihood of remotely detecting the presence of life in low-productivity, microbial biospheres, putting an upper limit on the lifetime of Earth's remotely detectable biosignatures. Other potential biosignatures such as leaf reflectance and cloud cover are discussed.

  15. #15
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    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2017AGUFM.P43E2931S

    When a Slowly Rotating Aquaplanet is Coupled to a Dynamical Ocean

    Salameh, J.; Marotzke, J.
    12/2017

    Planets orbiting in close distance from their stars have a high probability to be detected, and are expected to be slowly rotating due to strong tidal forces. By increasing the rotation period from 1 Earth-day to 365 Earth-days, we previously found that the global-mean surface temperature of an aquaplanet with a static mixed-layer ocean decreases by up to 27 K. The cooling is attributed to an increase of the planetary albedo with the rotation period, which is associated with the different distributions of the sea ice and the deep convective clouds. However, we had there assumed a fixed mixed-layer depth and a zero oceanic heat transport in the aquaplanet configuration. The limitations of these assumptions in such exotic climates are still unclear. We therefore perform coupled atmosphere-ocean aquaplanet simulations with the general circulation model ICON for various rotation periods ranging from 1 Earth-day to 365 Earth-days. We investigate how the underlying oceanic circulation modifies the mean climate of slowly rotating aquaplanets, and whether the day-to-night oceanic heat transport reduces the surface-temperature gradients and the sea-ice extent.

    =============================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1704.02535

    A Search for Laser Emission with Megawatt Thresholds from 5600 FGKM Stars

    Nathaniel K. Tellis, Geoffrey W. Marcy
    (Submitted on 8 Apr 2017)

    We searched high resolution spectra of 5600 nearby stars for emission lines that are both inconsistent with a natural origin and unresolved spatially, as would be expected from extraterrestrial optical lasers. The spectra were obtained with the Keck 10-meter telescope, including light coming from within 0.5 arcsec of the star, corresponding typically to within a few to tens of au of the star, and covering nearly the entire visible wavelength range from 3640 to 7890 angstroms. We establish detection thresholds by injecting synthetic laser emission lines into our spectra and blindly analyzing them for detections. We compute flux density detection thresholds for all wavelengths and spectral types sampled. Our detection thresholds for the power of the lasers themselves range from 3 kW to 13 MW, independent of distance to the star but dependent on the competing "glare" of the spectral energy distribution of the star and on the wavelength of the laser light, launched from a benchmark, diffraction-limited 10-meter class telescope. We found no such laser emission coming from the planetary region around any of the 5600 stars. As they contain roughly 2000 lukewarm, Earth-size planets, we rule out models of the Milky Way in which over 0.1 percent of warm, Earth-size planets harbor technological civilizations that, intentionally or not, are beaming optical lasers toward us. A next generation spectroscopic laser search will be done by the Breakthrough Listen initiative, targeting more stars, especially stellar types overlooked here including spectral types O, B, A, early F, late M, and brown dwarfs, and astrophysical exotica.

    =============================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1412.4015

    Primordial Black Holes as Heat Sources for Living Systems with Longest Possible Lifetimes

    C Sivaram (1), Kenath Arun (2), Kiren O V (2) ((1) Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, (2) Christ Junior College, Bangalore)
    (Submitted on 14 Feb 2014)

    Just forty years ago, Hawking wrote his famous paper on primordial black holes (PBH). There have been since innumerable discussions on the consequences of the existence of such exotic objects and ramifications of their properties. Here we suggest that PBH's in an ever expanding universe (as implied by dark energy domination, especially of a cosmological constant) could be the ultimate repository for long lived living systems. PBH's having solar surface temperatures would last 10^32 years as a steady power source and should be considered in any discussion on exobiological life.

    =============================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2013AGUSM.P34A..06N

    Compartmentalisation Strategies for Hydrocarbon-based Biota on Titan

    Norman, L.; Fortes, A. D.; Skipper, N.; Crawford, I.
    05/2013

    The goal of our study is to determine the nature of compartimentalisation strategies for any organisms inhabiting the hydrocarbon lakes of Titan (the largest moon of Saturn). Since receiving huge amounts of data via the Cassini-Huygens mission to the Saturnian system astrobiologists have speculated that exotic biota might currently inhabit this environment. The biota have been theorized to consume acetylene and hydrogen whilst excreting methane (1,2) leading to an anomalous hydrogen depletion near the surface; and there has been evidence to suggest this depletion exists (3). Nevertheless, many questions still remain concerning the possible physiological traits of biota in these environments, including whether cell-like structures can form in low temperature, low molecular weight hydrocarbons. The backbone of terrestrial cell membranes are vesicular structures composed primarily of a phospholipid bilayer with the hydrophilic head groups arranged around the periphery and are thought to be akin to the first protocells that terrestrial life utilised (4). It my be possible that reverse vesicles composed of a bilayer with the hydrophilic head groups arranged internally and a nonpolar core may be ideal model cell membranes for hydrocarbon-based organisms inhabiting Titan's hydrocarbon lakes (5). A variety of different surfactants have been used to create reverse vesicles in nonpolar liquids to date including; non-ionic ethers (7) and esters (6, 8); catanionic surfactant mixtures (9); zwitterionic gemini surfactants (10); coblock polymer surfactants (11); and zwitterionic phospholipid surfactants (12). In order to discover whether certain phospholipids can exhibit vesicular behaviour within hydrocarbon liquids, and to analyse their structure, we have carried out experimental studies using environmental conditions that are increasing comparable to those found on the surface of Titan. Experimental methods that have been used to determine the presence of vesicles include the use of microscopy, the presence of the Tyndall scattering effect, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), dynamic light scattering (DLS) , small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) and small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS). These studies are currently being anaylzed, however, some results have indcated the presence of reverse vesicles in certain systems. Compounds that are shown to form reverse vesicles in conditions comparable to those of Titan's lakes could be potential 'biomarkers' and searched for in future missions to Titan.

    ===================================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1110.3728

    Light and Life: Exotic Photosynthesis in Binary Star Systems

    J. T. O'Malley-James, J. A. Raven, C. S. Cockell, J. S. Greaves
    (Submitted on 17 Oct 2011)

    The potential for hosting photosynthetic life on Earth-like planets within binary/multiple stellar systems was evaluated by modelling the levels of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) such planets receive. Combinations of M and G stars in: (i) close-binary systems; (ii) wide-binary systems and (iii) three-star systems were investigated and a range of stable radiation environments found to be possible. These environmental conditions allow for the possibility of familiar, but also more exotic forms of photosynthetic life, such as infrared photosynthesisers and organisms specialised for specific spectral niches.

    ========================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2012AGUFM.P14A..06S

    Planetary Habitability and Rapid Environmental Change: The Biological Perspective

    Schulze-Makuch, D.; Fairen, A.; Irwin, L.
    12/2012

    Environmental conditions can change drastically and rapidly during the natural history of a planetary body. We have detailed evidence of these dramatic events from Venus, Earth, Mars, and Titan. Most of these occurrences seem to be triggered by astronomical events such as asteroid impacts or supernova explosions; others are triggered by the planet or moon itself (e.g., supervolcano eruptions). The associated question is always how these events affect the habitability of a planet, particularly the origin and presence of life. Under what conditions would such a drastic event be so catastrophic that it would prohibit the origin of life or be so devastating to existing organisms, that life would not be able to recover and be all but extinguished from a planet? Under what conditions would such an event be positive for the evolution of life, for example spurring life via mass extinctions and associated vacant habitats to the invention of new body plans and higher complexity? Here, we provide insights of what we can learn from the natural history of our own planet, which experienced many environmental disasters and abrupt climate changes, from the impact event that created the Moon to the extinction of the dinosaurs. We apply these insights to other planetary bodies and the question about the presence of life. One example is Mars, which underwent drastic environmental changes at the end of the Noachian period. Assuming that microbial life became established on Mars, could it have survived, perhaps by retreating to environmental niches? Life just starting out would have certainly been more vulnerable to extinction. But how far would it have to have evolved to be more resistant to potential extinction events? Would it have to be global in distribution to survive? Another example is Venus. Should Venus be seen as an example where life, which possibly arose in the first few hundred million years when the planet was still in the habitable zone, would have had no chance to survive the upcoming calamities (e.g., the putative meteorite impact that resulted in an opposite spin of the planet, global volcanic eruptions, a run-away greenhouse effect, etc)? Titan may be the most exotic example. Titan may have experienced the transition from a warmer, water-based solvent to a colder, hydrocarbon-based solvent early in its natural history and is still undergoing climate-change cycles. What effects would these transitions have on a possible biosphere? These insights will be also critical for assessing the possibility of life on any "Super-Earth" and other exoplanets, including an assessment of the limits to which life can adapt.
    Last edited by Roger E. Moore; 2018-Aug-20 at 08:23 PM.

  16. #16
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    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2018arXiv180106341K

    Extremophile life-form survey on rocky exoplanets

    Kashyap Jagadeesh, Madhu
    01/2018

    Search for different life-forms elsewhere is the fascinating area of research in astrophysics and astrobiology. Nearly 3500 exoplanets are discovered according to NASA exoplanet archive database. Earth Similarity Index (ESI) is defined as the geometrical mean of radius, density, escape velocity and surface temperature, ranging from 0 (dissimilar to Earth) to 1(Earth). In this research, rocky exoplanets that are suitable for rock dependent extremophiles, such as: Chroococcidiopsis and Acarosporamto are chosen, which can potentially survive are considered. The Colonizing Similarity Index (CSI) is introduced and analysed for 1650 rocky exoplanets, CSI is basically representing Earth-like planets that are suitable for rocky extremophiles which can survive in extreme temperatures (i.e. as hot as desert and cold as frozen lands). In this work the in-habitable exoplanets are recognised even for these rocky extremophiles to not potentially survive by using the CSI metric tool.

  17. #17
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    https://arxiv.org/abs/1801.07101

    Earth Similarity Index and Habitability Studies of Exoplanets

    Madhu Kashyap Jagadeesh
    (Submitted on 22 Jan 2018 (v1), last revised 7 Jun 2018 (this version, v2))

    Study of exoplanets has been of considerable interest for Astronomers, Planetary Scientists and Astrobiologists. Analysis of huge planetary data from space missions such as CoRoT and Kepler is directed ultimately at finding a planet similar to Earth- the Earth's twin, and looking for potential habitability. The Earth Similarity Index (ESI) is defined to find the similarity with Earth, which ranges from 1 (Earth) to 0 (totally dissimilar to Earth). ESI can be computed using four physical parameters of a planet, namely radius, density, escape velocity and surface temperature. The surface temperature entering surface ESI is a non-observable quantity and what we know is only equilibrium temperature of exoplanets. We have established a relation between surface and equilibrium temperatures using the data available for the solar system objects to address the difficulty in determining surface temperature. From the ESI analysis, we have found 20 Earth-like exoplanets with ESI value above 0.8, which is set as the threshold. We are also interested in Mars-like planets to search for planets that may host the extreme life For example, methane-specific extremophile life form metabolism, for which a new approach, called Mars Similarity Index (MSI) is introduced. MSI is defined in the range between 1 (present Mars) and 0 (dissimilar to present Mars) and uses the same physical parameters as that of ESI. We introduced another new approach to study the potential habitability of exoplanets based on Cobb-Douglas Function, multi-parametric function. This did not yield any encouraging results.

    ==============================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2016P%26SS..125...20B

    Survivability of bare, individual Bacillus subtilis spores to high-velocity surface impact: Implications for microbial transfer through space

    Barney, Brandon L.; Pratt, Sara N.; Austin, Daniel E.
    06/2016

    Laboratory experiments show that endospores of Bacillus subtilis survive impact against a solid surface at velocities as high as 299 ±28 m/s. During impact, spores experience and survive accelerations of at least 1010 m/s2. The spores were introduced into a vacuum chamber using an electrospray source and accelerated to a narrow velocity distribution by entrainment in a differentially pumped gas flow. Different velocity ranges were studied by modifying the gas flow parameters. The spores were electrically charged, allowing direct measurement of the velocity of each spore as it passed through an image charge detector prior to surface impact. Spores impacted a glass surface and were collected for subsequent analysis by culturing. Most spores survived impact at all measured velocities. These experiments differ fundamentally from other studies that show either shock or impact survivability of bacteria embedded within or on the surface of a projectile. Bacteria in the present experiments undergo a single interaction with a solid surface at the full impact velocity, in the absence of any other effects such as cushioning due to microbe agglomerations, deceleration due to air or vapor, or transfer of impact shock through solid or liquid media. During these full-velocity impact events, the spores experience extremely high decelerations. This study is the first reported instance of accelerations of this magnitude experienced during a bacteria impact event. These results are discussed in the context of potential transfer of viable microbes in space and other scenarios involving surface impacts at high velocities.

    ==============================

    http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.o...2016-17566.pdf

    Resistance of lichens to simulated galactic cosmic radiation: limits of survival capacity and biosignature detection

    de la Torre Noetzel, Rosa; Miller, Ana Z.; Cubero, Beatriz; Raguse, Marina; Meessen, Joachim
    04/2016

    Space constitutes an extremely harmful environment for survival of terrestrial organisms. Amongst extremophiles on Earth, lichens are one of the most resistant organisms to harsh terrestrial environments, as well as some species of microorganisms, such as bacteria (Moeller et al., 2010), criptoendolithic cyanobacteria and lithic fungi (de los Ríos et al. 2004). To study the survival capacity of lichens to the harmful radiation environment of space, we have selected the lichen Circinaria gyrosa, an astrobiological model defined by its high capacity of resistance to space conditions (De la Torre et al. 2010) and to a simulated Mars environment (Sanchez et al., 2012). Samples were irradiated with four types of space-relevant ionizing radiation in the STARLIFE campaign: helium and iron ion doses (up to 2,000 Gy), X-ray doses (up to 5,000 Gy) and ultra-high γ-ray doses (from 6 to 113 kGy). Results on resistance of C. gyrosa to space-relevant ionizing radiation and its post-irradiation viability were obtained by: (i) chlorophyll a fluorescence of photosystem II (PS II); (ii) epifluorescence microscopy; (iii) confocal laser-scanning microscopy (CLSM), and (iv) field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM). Results of photosynthetic activity and epifluorescence showed no significant changes on the viability of C. gyrosa with increasing doses of helium and iron ions as well as X-rays. In contrast, γ-irradiation elicited significant dose-correlated effects as revealed by all applied techniques. Relevant is the presence of whewellite-like crystals, detected by FESEM on C. gyrosa thalli after high irradiation doses, which has been also identified in previous Mars simulation studies (Böttcher et al., 2014). These studies contribute to the better understanding of the adaptability of extremophile organisms to harsh environments, as well as to estimate the habitability of a planet's surface, like Mars; they will be important for planning experiments on the search of life in the universe, and as contribution of lithopanspermia, the theory that supports the interplanetary transfer of rock inhabiting life by means of meteorites (Mileikovsky et al., 2000).

    ========================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2015Icar..257..396D

    Constraints on a potential aerial biosphere on Venus: I. Cosmic rays

    Dartnell, Lewis R.; Nordheim, Tom Andre; Patel, Manish R.; Mason, Jonathon P.; Coates, Andrew J.; Jones, Geraint H.
    09/2015

    While the present-day surface of Venus is certainly incompatible with terrestrial biology, the planet may have possessed oceans in the past and provided conditions suitable for the origin of life. Venusian life may persist today high in the atmosphere where the temperature and pH regime is tolerable to terrestrial extremophile microbes: an aerial habitable zone. Here we argue that on the basis of the combined biological hazard of high temperature and high acidity this habitable zone lies between 51 km (65 °C) and 62 km (-20 °C) altitude. Compared to Earth, this potential venusian biosphere may be exposed to substantially more comic ionising radiation: Venus has no protective magnetic field, orbits closer to the Sun, and the entire habitable region lies high in the atmosphere - if this narrow band is sterilised there is no reservoir of deeper life that can recolonise afterwards. Here we model the propagation of particle radiation through the venusian atmosphere, considering both the background flux of high-energy galactic cosmic rays and the transient but exceptionally high-fluence bursts of extreme solar particle events (SPE), such as the Carrington Event of 1859 and that inferred for AD 775. We calculate the altitude profiles of both energy deposition into the atmosphere and the absorbed radiation dose to assess this astrophysical threat to the potential high-altitude venusian biosphere. We find that at the top of the habitable zone (62 km altitude; 190 g/cm2 shielding depth) the radiation dose from the modelled Carrington Event with a hard spectrum (matched to the February 1956 SPE) is over 18,000 times higher than the background from GCR, and 50,000 times higher for the modelled 775 AD event. However, even though the flux of ionising radiation can be sterilizing high in the atmosphere, the total dose delivered at the top of the habitable zone by a worst-case SPE like the 775 AD event is 0.09 Gy, which is not likely to present a significant survival challenge. Nonetheless, the extreme ionisation could force atmospheric chemistry that may perturb a venusian biosphere in other ways. The energy deposition profiles presented here are also applicable to modelling efforts to understand how fundamental planetary atmospheric processes such as atmospheric chemistry, cloud microphysics and atmospheric electrical systems are affected by extreme solar particle events. The companion paper to this study, Constraints on a potential aerial biosphere on Venus: II. Solar ultraviolet radiation (Patel et al., in preparation), considers the threat posed by penetration of solar UV radiation. The results of these twin studies are based on Venus but are also applicable to extrasolar terrestrial planets near the inner edge of the circumstellar habitable zone.

  18. #18
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    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2017AGUFM.P53E2676G

    A New Spin to Exoplanet Habitability Criteria

    Georgoulis, M. K.; Patsourakos, S.
    12/2017

    We describe a physically- and statistically-based method to infer the near-Sun magnetic field of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and then extrapolate it to the inner heliosphere and beyond. Besides a ballpark agreement with in-situ observations of interplanetary CMEs (ICMEs) at L1, we use our estimates to show that Earth does not seem to be at risk of an extinction-level atmospheric erosion or stripping by the magnetic pressure of extreme solar eruptions, even way above a Carrington-type event. This does not seem to be the case with exoplanets, however, at least those orbiting in the classically defined habitability zones of magnetically active dwarf stars at orbital radii of a small fraction of 1 AU. We show that the combination of stellar ICMEs and the tidally locking zone of mother stars, that quite likely does not allow these exoplanets to attain Earth-like magnetic fields to shield themselves, probably render the existence of a proper atmosphere in them untenable. We propose, therefore, a critical revision of habitability criteria in these cases that would limit the number of target exoplanets considered as potential biosphere hosts.

    =============================

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2017AGUFM.P53E2669S

    Tide, Ocean and Climate on Exoplanets

    Si, Y.; Yang, J.
    12/2017

    On Earth, tide is a main part of the driving force for the deep ocean overturning circulation. For habitable planets around low-mass stars, the tidal force is expected to be much stronger than that on Earth, due to the fact that the habitable zone is very close to the host stars and that tide force is inversely proportional to the orbital distance cubed. The deep ocean overturning circulation on this type of planets is therefore expected to be much stronger than that on Earth, if all else being equal. We test this hypothesis using a fully coupled atmosphere-ocean model, the Community Climate System Model version 3 (CCSM3). Our results show that the intensity of oceanic meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is approximately proportional to kappa1/3, where kappa is the mixing coefficient across density interfaces and it is mainly determined by the strength of the tidal force. As a result of the enhanced MOC, more heat is transported to dark regions and sea ice melts completely there, and meanwhile more heat is mixed from the surface to the deep ocean and thereby the entire ocean becomes much warmer (Fig. 1). A positive cloud feedback further warms the global ocean and atmosphere. These results imply that one planet with a stronger tidal force will likely enter a globally ice-covered snowball state at a lower stellar flux and enter a moist greenhouse or runaway greenhouse state at also a lower stellar flux, meaning that the tidal force acts to push the habitable zone outward. This study significantly improves our understanding of the possible coupling between planetary orbit, ocean, climate, and habitability on exoplanets.

    =============================

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2017AGUFM.P42B..04R

    Long Term Planetary Habitability and the Carbonate-Silicate Cycle: The Effect of Planet Size

    Rushby, A. J.; Johnson, M.; Mills, B.; Watson, A. J.; Claire, M.
    12/2017

    The potential habitability of exoplanets is traditionally assessed by determining whether or not its orbit falls within the circumstellar `habitable zone' of its star [1]. However, this metric does not readily account readily for changes in the abundance of greenhouse gases and their associated radiative forcing as a result of the action of the carbonate-silicate cycle. We develop a model of the carbon cycle on Earth, coupled with a stellar evolution model and a 1-D radiative-convective climate model with an Earth-like atmospheric water vapour profile [1], to explore the potential changes in the CO2 greenhouse under conditions of varying planet size (0.5 - 2 R⊕) and stellar flux (0.75 to 1.25 S⊕). We find that likely changes in global topography, tectonic outgassing and uplift, and the hydrological cycle on larger planets results in proportionally greater surface temperatures and pCO2 for a given incident flux. For planets between 0.5 and 2 R⊕ the effect of these changes results in average global surface temperature deviations of up to 15 K, which suggests that these relationships be considered in future studies of planetary habitability.Furthermore, by coupling this model with the stellar evolution scheme presented in [2] and setting an upper temperature limit of 343 K, the habitable period of the Earth-sized world around the Sun can be quantified. For a 1 R⊕ planet, this limit is approximately 6.35 Gyr after planet formation, or 1.81 Gyr from present day. Additionally, atmospheric CO2 falls below the limit at which C3 and C4 plants can effectively photosynthesize after 5.38 Gyr and 6.1 Gyr respectively, which may initiate a significant reorganization of the biosphere of the planet well before average surface temperatures render it uninhabitable. References: [1] Kopparapu et al. (2013) The Astrophysical Journal 765(2) [2] Rushby et al. (2013) Astrobiology, 13(9), 833-849.

    ===============================

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2017AGUFM.P42B..01B

    Do habitable worlds require magnetic fields?

    Brain, D. A.; Egan, H. L.; Ma, Y. J.; Jarvinen, R.; Jakosky, B. M.; Moore, T. E.; Garcia-Sage, K.
    12/2017

    Of the three terrestrial worlds that have significant atmospheres (Venus, Earth, and Mars), only Earth also possesses a global dynamo magnetic field. This magnetic field is often thought to have shielded the planet from the impinging solar wind, preventing the atmosphere from being stripped away to space. The atmospheres of Mars and Venus, by contrast, are thought to have escaped to space or been dessicated (respectively) due at least in part to their planet's lack of global magnetic field. The assumption that global scale magnetic fields are a necessary requirement for surface habitability is widely used both in the planetary and exoplanetary communities, but this assumption has been called into question in recent years based both on theoretical arguments and on observations returned by spacecraft. Here we summarize the arguments "for" and "against" the importance of magnetic fields for planetary habitability, and review the observations that teach us about the role of magnetic fields. We then identify several ongoing efforts and likely fruitful avenues for determining whether a dynamo field is necessary for life to be possible at a planet's surface.

  19. #19
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    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2017ysc..conf...21V

    Where else might be life in the Solar system?

    Vidmachenko, A. P.; Steklov, A. F.
    05/2017

    We know that there is life on Earth. But some bacteria live in nearly boiling liquid of an extinct volcano, which is saturated by acids, alkalis and salts in various combinations. The main problem of the modern theory of the origin of life is the emergence from the initial chaotic mixture of chemical elements and simple compounds of polymer systems that can to organize themselves, and their subsequent evolution. The main forms of life on Earth are organisms of cellular structure. Exceptions are viruses, that are non-cellular life forms. If we find somewhere life in the Solar system, most likely, it will be microscopic cells. The most likely candidates for this honorable role are: Jupiter's moon Io, Jupiter's moon Europa, Saturn's moons Titan and Enceladus, Neptune's satellite Triton; on the surface of Pluto also found two cryovolcanoes, spacecraft "Dawn" discovered the vast reserves of water on dwarf planet Ceres; also, on its surface was found a large cryovolcano. The most likely candidate for the presence of life is Mars. These bodies are possible objects in the Solar system, where one can search for life of different forms.

  20. #20
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    I had to laugh.


    https://arxiv.org/abs/1706.00653

    Decryption of Messages from Extraterrestrial Intelligence Using the Power of Social Media - The SETI Decrypt Challenge

    René Heller (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen, Germany)
    (Submitted on 2 Jun 2017 (v1), last revised 26 Jan 2018 (this version, v3))

    With the advent of modern astronomy, humans might now have acquired the technological and intellectual requirements to communicate with other intelligent beings beyond the solar system, if they exist. Radio signals have been identified as a means for interstellar communication about 60 years ago. And the Square Kilometer Array will be capable of detecting extrasolar radio sources analogous to terrestrial high-power radars out to several tens of light years. The ultimate question is: will we be able to understand the message, or, vice versa, if we submit a message to extraterrestrial intelligence first, how can we make sure that they understand us? Here I report on the largest blind experiment of a pretend radio message received on Earth from beyond the solar system. I posted a sequence of about two million binary digits ("0" and "1") to the social media that encoded a configuration frame, two slides with mathematical content, and four images along with spatial and temporal information about their contents. Six questions were asked that would need to be answered to document the successful decryption of the message. Within a month after the posting, over 300 replies were received in total, including comments and requests for hints, 66 of which contained the correct solutions. About half of the solutions were derived fully independently, the other half profited from public online discussions and spoilers. This experiment demonstrates the power of the world wide web to help interpreting possible future messages from extraterrestrial intelligence and to test decryptability of our own deliberate interstellar messages.

  21. #21
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    The next group of papers includes some older ones (always after 2000) that had interesting material, plus more papers on exotic exobiology.

    =========================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2010tfch.book..215R

    Titan's Astrobiology

    Raulin, F.; McKay, C.; Lunine, J.; Owen, T.
    00/2010

    This chapter describes the aspects of Saturn's moon Titan of astrobiological interest. Titan's prebiotic-like chemistry is reviewed, from the high atomosphere to the surface and subsurface, using the Cassini-Huygens data, with the help of theoretical modeling and experimental simulations. Similarities with and differences from the environment of the pre-biotic Earth are presented, and the lessons to be learned for Earth's organic chemical evolution on the prebiotic Earth discussed. The question of habitability and life on and in Titan is then considered, including the possibility of an exotic type of life that might exist in the liquid methane/ ethane lakes. Finally, the relation between Titan and the destiny of life on Earth is discussed.

    ============================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2013AGUSM.P34A..06N

    Compartmentalisation Strategies for Hydrocarbon-based Biota on Titan

    Norman, L.; Fortes, A. D.; Skipper, N.; Crawford, I.
    05/2013

    The goal of our study is to determine the nature of compartimentalisation strategies for any organisms inhabiting the hydrocarbon lakes of Titan (the largest moon of Saturn). Since receiving huge amounts of data via the Cassini-Huygens mission to the Saturnian system astrobiologists have speculated that exotic biota might currently inhabit this environment. The biota have been theorized to consume acetylene and hydrogen whilst excreting methane (1,2) leading to an anomalous hydrogen depletion near the surface; and there has been evidence to suggest this depletion exists (3). Nevertheless, many questions still remain concerning the possible physiological traits of biota in these environments, including whether cell-like structures can form in low temperature, low molecular weight hydrocarbons. The backbone of terrestrial cell membranes are vesicular structures composed primarily of a phospholipid bilayer with the hydrophilic head groups arranged around the periphery and are thought to be akin to the first protocells that terrestrial life utilised (4). It my be possible that reverse vesicles composed of a bilayer with the hydrophilic head groups arranged internally and a nonpolar core may be ideal model cell membranes for hydrocarbon-based organisms inhabiting Titan's hydrocarbon lakes (5). A variety of different surfactants have been used to create reverse vesicles in nonpolar liquids to date including; non-ionic ethers (7) and esters (6, 8); catanionic surfactant mixtures (9); zwitterionic gemini surfactants (10); coblock polymer surfactants (11); and zwitterionic phospholipid surfactants (12). In order to discover whether certain phospholipids can exhibit vesicular behaviour within hydrocarbon liquids, and to analyse their structure, we have carried out experimental studies using environmental conditions that are increasing comparable to those found on the surface of Titan. Experimental methods that have been used to determine the presence of vesicles include the use of microscopy, the presence of the Tyndall scattering effect, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), dynamic light scattering (DLS) , small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) and small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS). These studies are currently being anaylzed, however, some results have indcated the presence of reverse vesicles in certain systems. Compounds that are shown to form reverse vesicles in conditions comparable to those of Titan's lakes could be potential 'biomarkers' and searched for in future missions to Titan.

    =================================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2012AGUFM.P21F1904S

    Synergism of Saturn, Enceladus and Titan and Formation of HCNO Exobiological Molecules

    Sittler, E. C.; Cooper, J. F.
    12/2012

    Saturn as a system has two very exotic moons Titan and Enceladus. Titan with energy input from Saturn's magnetosphere, solar UV irradiation, and galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) can make HCN based molecules. Space radiation effects at both moons, and as coupled by the Saturn magnetosphere, could lead to the evolution of biological models at Titan composed of HCNO with oxygen as the new ingredient. The "Old Faithful" model by Cooper et al. (2009) suggests that Enceladus, highly irradiated by Saturn magnetospheric electrons, has episodic ejections of water vapor into Saturn's magnetosphere. At Titan Cassini discovered keV oxygen ions, evidently from Enceladus, bombarding Titan's upper atmosphere (Hartle et al., 2006a,b) and abundant heavy positive and negative ions within Titan's upper atmosphere (Coates et al., 2007). Heavy ion formation in Titan's upper atmosphere can be due polymerization of aromatics such as Benzenes to make polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) (Waite et al., 2007) and/or the polymerization of carbon chains from acetylene to make fullerenes (Sittler et al., 2009). Fullerenes, which are hollow carbon shells, can trap the keV oxygen ions. Clustering of fullerenes, PAHs and PAHNs can form larger aerosols enriched in trapped oxygen which can then precipitate down to Titan's surface. GCRs will chemically process aerosol materials at the surface and provide sufficient energy for processing them into more complex organic forms such as amino acids. We have developed an advanced model of GCR interaction with Titan's atmosphere, surface and sub-surface. This allows one to estimate dose rates at the surface and below and then using laboratory results by Hudson et al. (2008) to estimate abundances of the amino acid such glycene to ~ 100 ppb over time periods relatively short compared to solar system timescales. Therefore, the Saturn system can provide pathways for the accumulation of prebiotic chemicals on Titan's surface.

  22. #22
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    https://arxiv.org/abs/1610.09697

    Transient reducing greenhouse warming on early Mars

    Robin Wordsworth, Yulia Kalugina, Sergei Lokshtanov, Andrei Vigasin, Bethany Ehlmann, James Head, Cecilia Sanders, Huize Wang
    (Submitted on 30 Oct 2016 (v1), last revised 1 Oct 2017 (this version, v2))

    The evidence for abundant liquid water on early Mars despite the faint young Sun is a long-standing problem in planetary research. Here we present new ab initio spectroscopic and line-by-line climate calculations of the warming potential of reduced atmospheres on early Mars. We show that the strength of both CO2-H2 and CO2-CH4 collision-induced absorption (CIA) has previously been significantly underestimated. Contrary to previous expectations, methane could have acted as a powerful greenhouse gas on early Mars due to CO2-CH4 CIA in the critical 250-500 cm^-1 spectral window region. In atmospheres of 0.5 bar CO2 or more, percent levels of H2 or CH4 raise annual mean surface temperatures by tens of degrees, with temperatures reaching 273 K for pressures of 1.25-2~bar and 2-10% of H2 and CH4. Methane and hydrogen produced following aqueous alteration of Mars' crust could have combined with volcanically outgassed CO2 to form transient atmospheres of this composition 4.5-3.5 Ga. Our results also suggest that inhabited exoplanets could retain surface liquid water at significant distances from their host stars.

    ==================================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1702.08618

    A Volcanic Hydrogen Habitable Zone

    Ramses Ramirez, Lisa Kaltenegger
    (Submitted on 28 Feb 2017)

    The classical habitable zone is the circular region around a star in which liquid water could exist on the surface of a rocky planet. The outer edge of the traditional N2-CO2-H2O habitable zone (HZ) extends out to nearly 1.7 AU in our Solar System, beyond which condensation and scattering by CO2 outstrips its greenhouse capacity. Here, we show that volcanic outgassing of atmospheric H2 on a planet near the outer edge can extend the habitable zone out to ~2.4 AU in our solar system. This wider volcanic hydrogen habitable zone (N2-CO2-H2O-H2) can be sustained as long as volcanic H2 output offsets its escape from the top of the atmosphere. We use a single-column radiative-convective climate model to compute the HZ limits of this volcanic hydrogen habitable zone for hydrogen concentrations between 1% and 50%, assuming diffusion-limited atmospheric escape. At a hydrogen concentration of 50%, the effective stellar flux required to support the outer edge decreases by ~35% to 60% for M to A stars. The corresponding orbital distances increase by ~30% to 60%. The inner edge of this HZ only moves out by ~0.1 to 4% relative to the classical HZ because H2 warming is reduced in dense H2O atmospheres. The atmospheric scale heights of such volcanic H2 atmospheres near the outer edge of the HZ also increase, facilitating remote detection of atmospheric signatures.

    ===================================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1610.07249

    Spitzer Observations Confirm and Rescue the Habitable-Zone Super-Earth K2-18b for Future Characterization

    Björn Benneke, Michael Werner, Erik Petigura, Heather Knutson, Courtney Dressing, Ian J. M. Crossfield, Joshua E. Schlieder, John Livingston, Charles Beichman, Jessie Christiansen, Jessica Krick, Varoujan Gorjian, Andrew W. Howard, Evan Sinukoff, David R. Ciardi, Rachel L. Akeson
    (Submitted on 24 Oct 2016)

    The recent detections of two transit events attributed to the super-Earth candidate K2-18b have provided the unprecedented prospect of spectroscopically studying a habitable-zone planet outside the Solar System. Orbiting a nearby M2.5 dwarf and receiving virtually the same stellar insolation as Earth, K2-18b would be a prime candidate for the first detailed atmospheric characterization of a habitable-zone exoplanet using HST and JWST. Here, we report the detection of a third transit of K2-18b near the predicted transit time using the Spitzer Space Telescope. The Spitzer detection demonstrates the periodic nature of the two transit events discovered by K2, confirming that K2-18 is indeed orbited by a super-Earth in a 33-day orbit and ruling out the alternative scenario of two similarly-sized, long-period planets transiting only once within the 75-day K2 observation. We also find, however, that the transit event detected by Spitzer occurred 1.85 hours (7-sigma) before the predicted transit time. Our joint analysis of the Spitzer and K2 photometry reveals that this early occurrence of the transit is not caused by transit timing variations (TTVs), but the result of an inaccurate K2 ephemeris due to a previously undetected data anomaly in the K2 photometry likely caused by a cosmic ray hit. We refit the ephemeris and find that K2-18b would have been lost for future atmospheric characterizations with HST and JWST if we had not secured its ephemeris shortly after the discovery. We caution that immediate follow-up observations as presented here will also be critical in confirming and securing future planets discovered by TESS, in particular if only two transit events are covered by the relatively short 27-day TESS campaigns.

    ===================================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0503302

    Vegetation's Red Edge: A Possible Spectroscopic Biosignature of Extraterrestrial Plants

    Sara Seager (DTM), Edwin L. Turner (Princeton), Justin Schafer (Princeton), Eric B. Ford (UCB)
    (Submitted on 14 Mar 2005)

    Earth's deciduous plants have a sharp order-of-magnitude increase in leaf reflectance between approximately 700 and 750 nm wavelength. This strong reflectance of Earth's vegetation suggests that surface biosignatures with sharp spectral features might be detectable in the spectrum of scattered light from a spatially unresolved extrasolar terrestrial planet. We assess the potential of Earth's step-function-like spectroscopic feature, referred to as the "red edge", as a tool for astrobiology. We review the basic characteristics and physical origin of the red edge and summarize its use in astronomy: early spectroscopic efforts to search for vegetation on Mars and recent reports of detection of the red edge in the spectrum of Earthshine (i.e., the spatially integrated scattered light spectrum of Earth). We present Earthshine observations from Apache Point Observatory to emphasize that time variability is key to detecting weak surface biosignatures such as the vegetation red edge. We briefly discuss the evolutionary advantages of vegetation's red edge reflectance, and speculate that while extraterrestrial "light harvesting organisms" have no compelling reason to display the exact same red edge feature as terrestrial vegetation, they might have similar spectroscopic features at different wavelengths than terrestrial vegetation. This implies that future terrestrial-planet-characterizing space missions should obtain data that allow time-varying, sharp spectral features at unknown wavelengths to be identified. We caution that some mineral reflectance edges are similar in slope and strength to vegetation's red edge (albeit at different wavelengths); if an extrasolar planet reflectance edge is detected care must be taken with its interpretation.

    ===================================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1702.02994

    Pale Orange Dots: The Impact of Organic Haze on the Habitability and Detectability of Earthlike Exoplanets

    Giada N. Arney, Victoria S. Meadows, Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman, Drake Deming, Tyler D. Robinson, Guadalupe Tovar, Eric T. Wolf, Edward Schwieterman
    (Submitted on 9 Feb 2017)

    Hazes are common in known planet atmospheres, and geochemical evidence suggests early Earth occasionally supported an organic haze with significant environmental and spectral consequences. The UV spectrum of the parent star drives organic haze formation through methane photochemistry. We use a 1D photochemical-climate model to examine production of fractal organic haze on Archean Earth-analogs in the habitable zonesof several stellar types: the modern and early Sun, AD Leo (M3.5V), GJ 876 (M4V), ϵ Eridani (K2V), and σ Bootis (F2V). For Archean-like atmospheres, planets orbiting stars with the highest UV fluxes do not form haze due to the formation of photochemical oxygen radicals that destroy haze precursors. Organic hazes impact planetary habitability via UV shielding and surface cooling, but this cooling is minimized around M dwarfs whose energy is emitted at wavelengths where organic hazes are relatively transparent. We generate spectra to test the detectability of haze. For 10 transits of a planet orbiting GJ 876 observed by the James Webb Space Telescope, haze makes gaseous absorption features at wavelengths <2.5 μm 2-10σ shallower compared to a haze-free planet, and methane and carbon dioxide are detectable at >5σ. A haze absorption feature can be detected at 5σ near 6.3 μm, but higher signal-to-noise is needed to distinguish haze from adjacent absorbers. For direct imaging of a planet at 10 parsecs using a coronagraphic 10-meter class ultraviolet-visible-near infrared telescope, a UV-blue haze absorption feature would be strongly detectable at >12σ in 200 hours.

    ========================================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1606.09580

    About Exobiology: The Case for Dwarf K Stars

    M. Cuntz, E. F. Guinan
    (Submitted on 30 Jun 2016)

    One of the most fundamental topics of exobiology concerns the identification of stars with environments consistent with life. Although it is believed that most types of main-sequence stars might be able to support life, particularly extremophiles, special requirements appear to be necessary for the development and sustainability of advanced life forms. From our study, orange main-sequence stars, ranging from spectral type late-G to mid-K (with a maximum at early-K), are most promising. Our analysis considers a variety of aspects, including (1) the frequency of the various types of stars, (2) the speed of stellar evolution their lifetimes, (3) the size of the stellar climatological habitable zones (CLI-HZs), (4) the strengths and persistence of their magnetic dynamo generated X-ray - UV emissions, and (5) the frequency and severity of flares, including superflares; both (4) and (5) greatly reduce the suitability of red dwarfs to host life-bearing planets. The various phenomena show pronounced dependencies on the stellar key parameters such as effective temperature and mass, permitting the assessment of the astrobiological significance of various types of stars. Thus, we developed a "Habitable-Planetary-Real-Estate Parameter" (HabPREP) that provides a measure for stars that are most suitable for planets with life. Early K stars are found to have the highest HabPREP values, indicating they may be "Goldilocks" stars for life-hosting planets. Red dwarfs are numerous, having long lifetimes, but their narrow CLI-HZs and hazards from magnetic activity make them less suitable for hosting exolife.

  23. #23
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    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2010AGUFM.P24A..03G

    Modeling Vertical Structure and Heat Transport within the Oceans of Ice-covered Worlds (Invited)

    Goodman, J. C.
    12/2010

    Indirect observational evidence provides a strong case for liquid oceans beneath the icy crust of Europa and several other frozen moons in the outer solar system. However, little is known about the fluid circulation within these exotic oceans. As a first step toward understanding circulations driven by buoyancy (rather than mechanical forcing from tides), one must understand the typical vertical structure of temperature, salinity, and thus density within the ocean. Following a common approach from terrestrial oceanography, I have built a "single column convection model" for icy world oceans, which describes the density structure of the ocean as a function of depth only: horizontal variations are ignored. On Earth, this approach is of limited utility, because of the strong influence of horizontal wind-driven currents and sea-surface temperature gradients set in concert with the overlying atmosphere. Neither of these confounding issues is present in an icy world's ocean. In the model, mixing of fluid properties via overturning convection is modeled as a strong diffusive process which only acts when the ocean is vertically unstable. "Double diffusive" processes (salt fingering and diffusive layering) are included: these are mixing processes resulting from the unequal molecular diffusivities of heat and salt. Other important processes, such as heating on adiabatic compression, and freshwater fluxes from melting overlying ice, are also included. As a simple test case, I considered an ocean of Europa-like depth (~100 km) and gravity, heated from the seafloor. To simplify matters, I specified an equation of state appropriate to terrestrial seawater, and a simple isothermal ocean as an initial condition. As expected, convection gradually penetrates upward, warming the ocean to an adiabatic, unstratified equilibrium density profile on a timescale of 50 kyr if 4.5 TW of heat are emitted by the silicate interior; the same result is achieved in proportionally more/less time for weaker/stronger internal heating. Unlike Earth's oceans, I predict that since icy worlds' oceans are heated from below, they will generally be unstratified, with constant potential density from top to bottom. There will be no pycnocline as on Earth, so global ocean currents supported by large-scale density gradients seem unlikely. However, icy world oceans may be "weird" in ways which are unheard-of in terrestrial oceanography The density of sulfate brine has a very different equation of state than chloride brines: does this affect the vertical structure? If the ocean water is very pure, cold water can be less dense than warm. Can this lead to periodic catastrophic overturning, as proposed by other authors? These and other questions are currently being investigated using the single-column convection model as a primary tool.

    =======================================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1711.09908

    Subsurface Exolife

    Manasvi Lingam, Abraham Loeb
    (Submitted on 27 Nov 2017 (v1), last revised 5 Apr 2018 (this version, v3))

    We study the prospects for life on planets with subsurface oceans, and find that a wide range of planets can exist in diverse habitats with ice envelopes of moderate thickness. We quantify the energy sources available to these worlds, the rate of production of prebiotic compounds, and assess their potential for hosting biospheres. Life on these planets is likely to face challenges, which could be overcome through a combination of different mechanisms. We estimate the number of such worlds, and find that they may outnumber rocky planets in the habitable zone of stars by a few orders of magnitude.

    =============================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2009A%26ARv..17..181L

    What makes a planet habitable?

    Lammer, H.; Bredehöft, J. H.; Coustenis, A.; Khodachenko, M. L.; Kaltenegger, L.; Grasset, O.; Prieur, D.; Raulin, F.; Ehrenfreund, P.; Yamauchi, M.; Wahlund, J.-E.; Grießmeier, J.-M.; Stangl, G.; Cockell, C. S.; Kulikov, Yu. N.; Grenfell, J. L.; Rauer, H.
    06/2009

    This work reviews factors which are important for the evolution of habitable Earth-like planets such as the effects of the host star dependent radiation and particle fluxes on the evolution of atmospheres and initial water inventories. We discuss the geodynamical and geophysical environments which are necessary for planets where plate tectonics remain active over geological time scales and for planets which evolve to one-plate planets. The discoveries of methane-ethane surface lakes on Saturn’s large moon Titan, subsurface water oceans or reservoirs inside the moons of Solar System gas giants such as Europa, Ganymede, Titan and Enceladus and more than 335 exoplanets, indicate that the classical definition of the habitable zone concept neglects more exotic habitats and may fail to be adequate for stars which are different from our Sun. A classification of four habitat types is proposed. Class I habitats represent bodies on which stellar and geophysical conditions allow Earth-analog planets to evolve so that complex multi-cellular life forms may originate. Class II habitats includes bodies on which life may evolve but due to stellar and geophysical conditions that are different from the class I habitats, the planets rather evolve toward Venus- or Mars-type worlds where complex life-forms may not develop. Class III habitats are planetary bodies where subsurface water oceans exist which interact directly with a silicate-rich core, while class IV habitats have liquid water layers between two ice layers, or liquids above ice. Furthermore, we discuss from the present viewpoint how life may have originated on early Earth, the possibilities that life may evolve on such Earth-like bodies and how future space missions may discover manifestations of extraterrestrial life.

    ===================================

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/2011ApJ...734L..13P

    Hydrogen Greenhouse Planets Beyond the Habitable Zone

    Pierrehumbert, Raymond; Gaidos, Eric
    06/2011

    We show that collision-induced absorption allows molecular hydrogen to act as an incondensible greenhouse gas and that bars or tens of bars of primordial H2-He mixtures can maintain surface temperatures above the freezing point of water well beyond the "classical" habitable zone defined for CO2 greenhouse atmospheres. Using a one-dimensional radiative-convective model, we find that 40 bars of pure H2 on a three Earth-mass planet can maintain a surface temperature of 280 K out to 1.5 AU from an early-type M dwarf star and 10 AU from a G-type star. Neglecting the effects of clouds and of gaseous absorbers besides H2, the flux at the surface would be sufficient for photosynthesis by cyanobacteria (in the G star case) or anoxygenic phototrophs (in the M star case). We argue that primordial atmospheres of one to several hundred bars of H2-He are possible and use a model of hydrogen escape to show that such atmospheres are likely to persist further than 1.5 AU from M stars, and 2 AU from G stars, assuming these planets have protecting magnetic fields. We predict that the microlensing planet OGLE-05-390Lb could have retained an H2-He atmosphere and be habitable at ~2.6 AU from its host M star.

    =====================================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1304.3714

    Towards the Minimum Inner Edge Distance of the Habitable Zone

    Andras Zsom, Sara Seager, Julien de Wit, Vlada Stamenkovic
    (Submitted on 12 Apr 2013 (v1), last revised 4 Sep 2013 (this version, v3))

    We explore the minimum distance from a host star where an exoplanet could potentially be habitable in order not to discard close-in rocky exoplanets for follow-up observations. We find that the inner edge of the Habitable Zone for hot desert worlds can be as close as 0.38 AU around a solar-like star, if the greenhouse effect is reduced (∼1% relative humidity) and the surface albedo is increased. We consider a wide range of atmospheric and planetary parameters such as the mixing ratios of greenhouse gases (water vapor and CO2), surface albedo, pressure and gravity. Intermediate surface pressure (∼1-10 bars) is necessary to limit water loss and to simultaneously sustain an active water cycle. We additionally find that the water loss timescale is influenced by the atmospheric CO2 level, because it indirectly influences the stratospheric water mixing ratio. If the CO2 mixing ratio of dry planets at the inner edge is smaller than 10^−4, the water loss timescale is ∼1 billion years, which is considered here too short for life to evolve. We also show that the expected transmission spectra of hot desert worlds are similar to an Earth-like planet. Therefore, an instrument designed to identify biosignature gases in an Earth-like atmosphere can also identify similarly abundant gases in the atmospheres of dry planets. Our inner edge limit is closer to the host star than previous estimates. As a consequence, the occurrence rate of potentially habitable planets is larger than previously thought.

    ===============================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1209.5323

    Exomoon habitability constrained by illumination and tidal heating

    René Heller, Rory Barnes
    (Submitted on 24 Sep 2012 (v1), last revised 30 Oct 2013 (this version, v3))

    The detection of moons orbiting extrasolar planets ("exomoons") has now become feasible. Once they are discovered in the circumstellar habitable zone, questions about their habitability will emerge. Exomoons are likely to be tidally locked to their planet and hence experience days much shorter than their orbital period around the star and have seasons, all of which works in favor of habitability. These satellites can receive more illumination per area than their host planets, as the planet reflects stellar light and emits thermal photons. On the contrary, eclipses can significantly alter local climates on exomoons by reducing stellar illumination. In addition to radiative heating, tidal heating can be very large on exomoons, possibly even large enough for sterilization. We identify combinations of physical and orbital parameters for which radiative and tidal heating are strong enough to trigger a runaway greenhouse. By analogy with the circumstellar habitable zone, these constraints define a circumplanetary "habitable edge". We apply our model to hypothetical moons around the recently discovered exoplanet Kepler-22b and the giant planet candidate KOI211.01 and describe, for the first time, the orbits of habitable exomoons. If either planet hosted a satellite at a distance greater than 10 planetary radii, then this could indicate the presence of a habitable moon.

  24. #24
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    https://arxiv.org/abs/1307.4760

    Habitability of Exomoons at the Hill or Tidal Locking Radius

    Natalie R. Hinkel, Stephen R. Kane
    (Submitted on 17 Jul 2013)

    Moons orbiting extrasolar planets are the next class of object to be observed and characterized for possible habitability. Like the host-planets to their host-star, exomoons have a limiting radius at which they may be gravitationally bound, or the Hill radius. In addition, they also have a distance at which they will become tidally locked and therefore in synchronous rotation with the planet. We have examined the flux phase profile of a simulated, hypothetical moon orbiting at a distant radius around the confirmed exoplanets mu Ara b, HD 28185 b, BD +14 4559 b, and HD 73534 b. The irradiated flux on a moon at it's furthest, stable distance from the planet achieves it's largest flux gradient, which places a limit on the flux ranges expected for subsequent (observed) moons closer in orbit to the planet. We have also analyzed the effect of planetary eccentricity on the flux on the moon, examining planets that traverse the habitable zone either fully or partially during their orbit. Looking solely at the stellar contributions, we find that moons around planets that are totally within the habitable zone experience thermal equilibrium temperatures above the runaway greenhouse limit, requiring a small heat redistribution efficiency. In contrast, exomoons orbiting planets that only spend a fraction of their time within the habitable zone require a heat redistribution efficiency near 100% in order to achieve temperatures suitable for habitability. Meaning, a planet does not need to spend its entire orbit within the habitable zone in order for the exomoon to be habitable. Because the applied systems are comprised of giant planets around bright stars, we believe that the transit detection method is most likely to yield an exomoon discovery.

  25. #25
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    I admit I had not thought about this before. Dang.


    https://arxiv.org/abs/1808.08141

    Limitations of Chemical Propulsion for Interstellar Escape from Habitable Zones around Low-Mass Stars

    Manasvi Lingam, Abraham Loeb
    (Submitted on 24 Aug 2018)

    The habitable zones of low-mass stars are characterized by escape speeds that can be a few times higher than the Earth's orbit around the Sun. Owing to the exponential dependence of the required fuel mass on the terminal speed for chemical rockets, interstellar travel may not be easy for technological species inhabiting planets around M-dwarfs.

  26. #26
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    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2018ysc..conf...17V

    On possible life on Jupiter's satellite Io

    Vidmachenko, A. P.
    5/2018

    Some of the satellites of Jupiter may well be suitable both for mastering, and for finding possible traces of life there. Among them such satellite like Io - nearest Galilean satellite of Jupiter, and one of the most volcanically active bodies in the solar system. Warming of the mantle is caused by a powerful tidal force from the side of Jupiter. This leads to the heating of some parts of the mantle to a temperature above 1800 K, with an average surface temperature of about 140 K. But under its surface can be safe and even comfortable shelters, where life could once have come from the outside (even in a very primitive form), and could survive to this day. Moreover, according to some model's assumptions, Io could sometime be formed in another part of the Solar system, where the water could exist. Note that on neighboring Galilean satellites now exist significant amounts of water.

  27. #27
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    https://arxiv.org/abs/1801.00748

    Habitability of Exoplanet Waterworlds

    Edwin S. Kite, Eric B. Ford
    (Submitted on 2 Jan 2018 (v1), last revised 30 Aug 2018 (this version, v2))

    Many habitable zone exoplanets are expected to form with water mass fractions higher than that of the Earth. For rocky exoplanets with 10-1000x Earth's H2O but without H2, we model the multi-Gyr evolution of ocean temperature and chemistry, taking into account C partitioning, high-pressure ice phases, and atmosphere-lithosphere exchange. Within our model, for Sun-like stars, we find that: (1)~the duration of habitable surface water is strongly affected by ocean chemistry; (2)~possible ocean pH spans a wide range; (3)~surprisingly, many waterworlds retain habitable surface water for >1 Gyr, and (contrary to previous claims) this longevity does not necessarily involve geochemical cycling. The key to this cycle-independent planetary habitability is that C exchange between the convecting mantle and the water ocean is curtailed by seafloor pressure on waterworlds, so the planet is stuck with the ocean mass and ocean cations that it acquires during the first 1% of its history. In our model, the sum of positive charges leached from the planetary crust by early water-rock interactions is - coincidentally - often within an order of magnitude of the early-acquired atmosphere+ocean inorganic C inventory overlaps. As a result, pCO2 is frequently in the "sweet spot" (0.2-20 bar) for which the range of semimajor axis that permits surface liquid water is about as wide as it can be. Because the width of the HZ in semimajor axis defines (for Sun-like stars) the maximum possible time span of surface habitability, this effect allows for Gyr of habitability as the star brightens. We illustrate our findings by using the output of an ensemble of N-body simulations as input to our waterworld evolution code. Thus (for the first time in an end-to-end calculation) we show that chance variation of initial conditions, with no need for geochemical cycling, can yield multi-Gyr surface habitability on waterworlds.

  28. #28
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    https://arxiv.org/abs/1807.06024

    Search for Extra-Galactic Intelligence Signal Synchronized with a Binary Neutron Star Merger

    Yuki Nishino, Naoki Seto
    (Submitted on 16 Jul 2018)

    We discuss the possibility of receiving a radio signal from extra-Galactic intelligence, around the time when we observe a binary neutron star merger in their galaxy. High precession measurements of the binary parameters allow them to send the signal ~ 10^4 years before they themselves observe the merger signal. Using the SKA, we might receive ~ 10^4 bits of data, transmitted from 40Mpc distance with the output power of ~ 1 TW. We also discuss related topics for GW170817 and mention potential roles of future gravitational wave detectors in relation to this transmission scheme.

    =================================

    When you think you've found life... but it's not.


    https://arxiv.org/abs/1805.10332

    Buildup of Abiotic Oxygen and Ozone in Moist Atmospheres of Temperate Terrestrial Exoplanets and its Impact on the Spectral Fingerprint in Transit Observations

    Armin Kleinböhl, Karen Willacy, A. James Friedson, Pin Chen, Mark R. Swain
    (Submitted on 25 May 2018)

    We investigate the abiotic production of oxygen and its photochemical byproduct ozone through water vapor photolysis in moist atmospheres of temperate terrestrial exoplanets. The amount of water vapor available for photolysis in the middle atmosphere of a planet can be limited by an atmospheric cold-trap, the formation of which largely depends on the amount of non-condensable gases. We study this effect using a photochemical model coupled to a 1D radiative-convective equilibrium model in atmospheres with N2, CO2 and H2O as the main constituents. We find that in atmospheres with a low N2 inventory, water vapor mixing ratios in the middle atmosphere can be over two orders of magnitude higher compared to atmospheres with an Earth-like N2 inventory. Without a strong surface sink, the non-condensable oxygen can build up rapidly, drying out the upper atmosphere. With a moderate surface sink, the planet can approach a steady state with significant oxygen mixing ratios in which oxygen production is balanced by surface uptake. We use a radiative transfer model to study the spectroscopic fingerprint of these atmospheres in transit observations. Spectral signatures of abiotic oxygen and ozone can be of comparable magnitude as in spectra of Earth seen as an exoplanet. Middle atmospheric water vapor is unlikely to be a usable indicator of the abiotic origin of oxygen because of the influence of oxygen on the water vapor distribution. This suggests that atmospheric oxygen and ozone cannot be used as binary bioindicators and their interpretation will likely require atmospheric and planetary models.

    =================================

    One of many papers in which superflare-star AD Leo is used as the model for an extreme-environment exoplanet. Now seems like AD Leo might have its own planet(s), per another paper.


    https://arxiv.org/abs/1808.02347

    New Insights into Cosmic Ray induced Biosignature Chemistry in Earth-like Atmospheres

    Markus Scheucher, J. L. Grenfell, F. Wunderlich, M. Godolt, F. Schreier, H. Rauer
    (Submitted on 7 Aug 2018)

    With the recent discoveries of terrestrial planets around active M-dwarfs, destruction processes masking the possible presence of life are receiving increased attention in the exoplanet community. We investigate potential biosignatures of planets having Earth-like (N2-O2) atmospheres orbiting in the habitable zone of the M-dwarf star AD Leo. These are bombarded by high energetic particles which can create showers of secondary particles at the surface. We apply our cloud-free 1D climate-chemistry model to study the influence of key particle shower parameters and chemical efficiencies of NOx and HOx production from cosmic rays. We determine the effect of stellar radiation and cosmic rays upon atmospheric composition, temperature, and spectral appearance. Despite strong stratospheric O3 destruction by cosmic rays, smog O3 can significantly build up in the lower atmosphere of our modeled planet around AD Leo related to low stellar UVB. N2O abundances decrease with increasing flaring energies but a sink reaction for N2O with excited oxygen becomes weaker, stabilizing its abundance. CH4 is removed mainly by Cl in the upper atmosphere for strong flaring cases and not via hydroxyl as is otherwise usually the case. Cosmic rays weaken the role of CH4 in heating the middle atmosphere so that H2O absorption becomes more important. We additionally underline the importance of HNO3 as a possible marker for strong stellar particle showers. In a nutshell, uncertainty in NOx and HOx production from cosmic rays significantly influences biosignature abundances and spectral appearance.

    ============================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1801.07725

    Sulfidic Anion Concentrations on Early Earth for Surficial Origins-of-Life Chemistry

    Sukrit Ranjan, Zoe R. Todd, John D. Sutherland, Dimitar D. Sasselov
    (Submitted on 23 Jan 2018)

    A key challenge in origin-of-life studies is understanding the environmental conditions on early Earth under which abiogenesis occurred. While some constraints do exist (e.g., zircon evidence for surface liquid water), relatively few constraints exist on the abundances of trace chemical species, which are relevant to assessing the plausibility and guiding the development of postulated prebiotic chemical pathways which depend on these species. In this work, we combine literature photochemistry models with simple equilibrium chemistry calculations to place constraints on the plausible range of concentrations of sulfidic anions (HS−, HSO−3, SO2−3) available in surficial aquatic reservoirs on early Earth due to outgassing of SO2 and H2S and their dissolution into small shallow surface water reservoirs like lakes. We find that this mechanism could have supplied prebiotically relevant levels of SO2-derived anions, but not H2-derived anions. Radiative transfer modelling suggests UV light would have remained abundant on the planet surface for all but the largest volcanic explosions. We apply our results to the case study of the proposed prebiotic reaction network of Patel et al. (2015), and discuss the implications for improving its prebiotic plausibility. In general, epochs of moderately high volcanism could have been especially conducive to cyanosulfidic prebiotic chemistry. Our work can be similarly applied to assess and improve the prebiotic plausibility of other postulated surficial prebiotic chemistries that are sensitive to sulfidic anions, and our methods adapted to study other atmospherically-derived trace species.

    =============================

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/scienc...019?via%3Dihub

    Survival of non-psychrophilic methanogens exposed to martian diurnal and 48-h temperature cycles

    Mickol, R. L.; Takagi, Y. A.; Kral, T. A.
    08/2018

    Polygonal ground and other geomorphological features reminiscent of recent freeze/thaw cycling are evident on Mars, despite the widespread belief that the planet is currently inhospitably cold and dry. On Earth, permafrost microbial communities are subjected to wide ranges in temperature and are often active at subfreezing temperatures. The existence of active microbial communities within permafrost on Earth suggests that permafrost on Mars may constitute a habitable environment. Terrestrial microbial permafrost communities typically contain methane-producing Archaea, which is cause for concern as global temperatures rise, resulting in permafrost thaw and the release of the potent greenhouse gas. Similarly, on Mars, the overlap between patterned ground and detections of localized methane plumes suggest that the compound may have been released from thawing permafrost. Analyses of permafrost ice cores and soil samples on Earth note that (1) archaeal communities often contain both mesophiles and psychrophiles at different depths and (2) active methane is being produced at subfreezing temperatures over geological timescales. Thus, the purpose of the experiments described here was to determine the effect of extreme temperature changes (reminiscent of the martian diurnal temperature cycle) on the growth and survival of four non-psychrophilic methanogens previously used as models for potential life on Mars. The results indicate that non-psychrophilic methanogens are capable of survival during extreme diurnal and 48-h temperature changes, similar to those on Mars.

  29. #29
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    The question of whether we are in an Anthropocene Epoch in geologic time strikes me as closely related to exobiology, in that we are evaluating ourselves as an intelligent species leaving a particular impact on the geologic record as to be noticeable to alien species investigating the Earth after we are gone. The "Silurian Hypothesis" is a related concept.

    http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.o...t/369/1938/835

    The Anthropocene: a new epoch of geological time?

    Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams, Alan Haywood, Michael Ellis
    Published 31 January 2011.DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2010.0339

    Abstract
    Anthropogenic changes to the Earth’s climate, land, oceans and biosphere are now so great and so rapid that the concept of a new geological epoch defined by the action of humans, the Anthropocene, is widely and seriously debated. Questions of the scale, magnitude and significance of this environmental change, particularly in the context of the Earth’s geological history, provide the basis for this Theme Issue. The Anthropocene, on current evidence, seems to show global change consistent with the suggestion that an epoch-scale boundary has been crossed within the last two centuries.

    1. Introduction
    From the late nineteenth century, scientists were becoming aware of the extent of human influence on planet Earth. George Perkins Marsh’s influential Man and Nature [1] is perhaps the first major work to focus on anthropogenic global change, while the Italian geologist Antonio Stoppani [2] coined the term ‘Anthropozoic’ to denote the time of this transformation. As the nineteenth century drew to a close, Svante Arrhenius [3] and Thomas Chamberlain [4] were exploring the relationship between CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and global warming. Arrhenius suggested that future generations of humans would need to raise surface temperatures to provide new areas of agricultural land and thus feed a growing population. In 2002, the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen [5] resurrected the concept of the Anthropocene to denote the current interval of time on Earth in which many key processes are dominated by human influence. The word quickly entered the scientific literature as a vivid expression of the degree of environmental change on Earth caused by humans, and is currently under discussion as a potential formal unit of the geological time scale [6,7].

    2. What characterizes the Anthropocene?
    The use of tools was once thought to distinguish humans from all other animals, and among the earliest people who lived at 2 Ma in Africa were Homo habilis, the ‘handy man’. From that time, people have been modifying the Earth. For much of that human story, these changes were achieved by muscle and sinew, supplemented first by primitive tools, largely for hunting, and later by fire. Traces of humans in the Pleistocene rock record are rare, and stay rare until the Holocene.

    The influence of humans is felt more strongly towards the end of the Pleistocene epoch, with the demise of much of the ‘megafauna’ that included the sabre-toothed cats in North America or the woolly mammoths of Siberia. On many continents, the disappearance of the megafauna appears to coincide with the arrival of modern humans. Like many events in the geological record, this extinction is diachronous—that is, happening in different places at different times. Thus, the megafauna disappeared in Australia 50 000 years ago, but in the Americas 13 000 years ago. Yet, the megafauna are still living in parts of Africa and South Asia, albeit under threat nearly everywhere.

    From the beginning of the Holocene, about 11 500 years ago, evidence for human activities becomes more widespread, with the rise of agriculture beginning first in the ‘fertile crescent’ of the Middle East and gradually extending to northern Europe by 6000 years ago [8]. This change from hunting to cultivation leaves a clear fossil record in the pollen preserved in sedimentary successions through this interval. And, the clearance of forests, associated with the rise of agriculture, may have begun to elevate CO2 levels in the atmosphere long before the Industrial Revolution [8].

    Following the Neolithic revolution of agriculture, humans began to live in villages and towns, and by the third millennium BC the cities of ancient Mesopotamia, the Nile Valley and the Indus Basin of Pakistan were well established and culturally distinctive. Still later, urban cultures spread across the tropical and temperate zones everywhere, with those in Europe, Central and South America and China being diverse and advanced by the first millennium BC. This rate of urbanization has accelerated through time, with the first million-strong cities possibly appearing in late medieval times. By the nineteenth century, London and Paris had clearly reached this size. Now, there are many cities with between 10 and 20 million inhabitants. These are continuing to grow, rapidly.

    Urbanization is a direct result of a population explosion. Since 1800, global population has risen from roughly 1 billion, to 6.5 billion in 2000 and a projected 9 billion by 2050. That population growth is linked with the Industrial Revolution, which supplied the power and technology to feed those extra mouths. Cities, and especially megacities like Jakarta, Rio de Janeiro or Shanghai, are now the most visible expression of human influence on the planet. The growth of cities is therefore a characteristic feature of the Anthropocene.

    In ‘terraforming’ cities and building the dams and agricultural land that water and feed them, humans have wrought a roughly order of magnitude change in the long-term rate of erosion and sedimentation [9,10]. Paradoxically, while deforestation and changes in land use have resulted in more sediment transported in rivers, many of those rivers are now dammed, preventing the flow of that sediment to continental shelves [11]. Such changes may be impermanent. If human construction were to stop, for instance, nature would soon take over these constructions, reducing them to ruins over a matter of centuries. After a few millennia, perhaps only a patchy layer of concrete and building rubble would remain.

    The biological and chemical signals left by humans—invisible, intangible in our day-to-day lives—may leave a signal more profound than the physical structures of the world’s megacities. Thus, dissolution of increased atmospheric CO2 into the oceans is increasing their acidity. A significant drop in oceanic pH has already occurred, and further decreases are almost certain. The biological response is complex, but will stress many calcifying organisms such as corals or the marine plankton that form the base of many food chains. Ocean acidification alone may substantially change marine ecosystems over the next century, contribute to global biodiversity decline, and so produce a distinctive event in the future fossil record.

  30. #30
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    https://arxiv.org/abs/1806.08561

    The Temporal Singularity: time-accelerated simulated civilizations and their implications

    Giacomo Spigler
    (Submitted on 22 Jun 2018)

    Provided significant future progress in artificial intelligence and computing, it may ultimately be possible to create multiple Artificial General Intelligences (AGIs), and possibly entire societies living within simulated environments. In that case, it should be possible to improve the problem solving capabilities of the system by increasing the speed of the simulation. If a minimal simulation with sufficient capabilities is created, it might manage to increase its own speed by accelerating progress in science and technology, in a way similar to the Technological Singularity. This may ultimately lead to large simulated civilizations unfolding at extreme temporal speedups, achieving what from the outside would look like a Temporal Singularity. Here we discuss the feasibility of the minimal simulation and the potential advantages, dangers, and connection to the Fermi paradox of the Temporal Singularity. The medium-term importance of the topic derives from the amount of computational power required to start the process, which could be available within the next decades, making the Temporal Singularity theoretically possible before the end of the century.

    ===================

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1806.02404

    Dissolving the Fermi Paradox

    Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler, Toby Ord
    (Submitted on 6 Jun 2018)

    The Fermi paradox is the conflict between an expectation of a high ex ante probability of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe and the apparently lifeless universe we in fact observe. The expectation that the universe should be teeming with intelligent life is linked to models like the Drake equation, which suggest that even if the probability of intelligent life developing at a given site is small, the sheer multitude of possible sites should nonetheless yield a large number of potentially observable civilizations. We show that this conflict arises from the use of Drake-like equations, which implicitly assume certainty regarding highly uncertain parameters. We examine these parameters, incorporating models of chemical and genetic transitions on paths to the origin of life, and show that extant scientific knowledge corresponds to uncertainties that span multiple orders of magnitude. This makes a stark difference. When the model is recast to represent realistic distributions of uncertainty, we find a substantial ex ante probability of there being no other intelligent life in our observable universe, and thus that there should be little surprise when we fail to detect any signs of it. This result dissolves the Fermi paradox, and in doing so removes any need to invoke speculative mechanisms by which civilizations would inevitably fail to have observable effects upon the universe.

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    https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley....9/2018JE005544

    Identification of Chlorobenzene in the Viking Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometer Data Sets: Reanalysis of Viking Mission Data Consistent With Aromatic Organic Compounds on Mars

    Guzman, Melissa; McKay, Christopher P.; Quinn, Richard C.; Szopa, Cyril; Davila, Alfonso F.; Navarro-González, Rafael; Freissinet, Caroline
    07/2018

    Motivated by the recent detection of chlorobenzene by the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument suite on the Curiosity rover, and the identification of its carbon source as indigenous to the martian sample, we reexamined the original, microfilm preserved, Viking gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer data sets. We found evidence for the presence of chlorobenzene in Viking Lander 2 (VL-2) data at levels corresponding to 0.08-1.0 ppb (relative to sample mass), in runs when the sample was heated to 350°C and 500°C. Additionally, we found a correlation between the temperature dependence of the chlorobenzene signal and the dichloromethane signal originally identified by the Viking gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer team. We considered possible sources of carbon that may have produced the chlorobenzene signal, by reaction with perchlorate during pyrolysis, including organic carbon indigenous to the martian parent sample and instrument contamination. We conclude that the chlorobenzene signal measured by VL-2 originated from martian chlorine sources. We show how the carbon source could originate from the martian parent sample, though a carbon source contributed from instrument background cannot yet be ruled out.

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    https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley....9/2017JE005478

    A Field Guide to Finding Fossils on Mars

    McMahon, S.; Bosak, T.; Grotzinger, J. P.; Milliken, R. E.; Summons, R. E.; Daye, M.; Newman, S. A.; Fraeman, A.; Williford, K. H.; Briggs, D. E. G.
    05/2018

    The Martian surface is cold, dry, exposed to biologically harmful radiation and apparently barren today. Nevertheless, there is clear geological evidence for warmer, wetter intervals in the past that could have supported life at or near the surface. This evidence has motivated National Aeronautics and Space Administration and European Space Agency to prioritize the search for any remains or traces of organisms from early Mars in forthcoming missions. Informed by (1) stratigraphic, mineralogical and geochemical data collected by previous and current missions, (2) Earth's fossil record, and (3) experimental studies of organic decay and preservation, we here consider whether, how, and where fossils and isotopic biosignatures could have been preserved in the depositional environments and mineralizing media thought to have been present in habitable settings on early Mars. We conclude that Noachian-Hesperian Fe-bearing clay-rich fluvio-lacustrine siliciclastic deposits, especially where enriched in silica, currently represent the most promising and best understood astropaleontological targets. Siliceous sinters would also be an excellent target, but their presence on Mars awaits confirmation. More work is needed to improve our understanding of fossil preservation in the context of other environments specific to Mars, particularly within evaporative salts and pore/fracture-filling subsurface minerals.

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    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2018EGUGA..2016717K

    Astrobiology workshop

    Krneta, Milica
    04/2018

    Internal question such as what is life and also questions like how life begins and evolves, is there life elsewhere in the cosmos and finally what is the future of life and intelligence on Earth and elsewhere in the universe are the main themes of the workshop. In order to stimulate students curiosity about questions concerning life and its origins, they are given tasks which will enhance their creativity, imagination, critical thinking and on the other side, to make them competent for research, rely on prior knowledge, put their knowledge into practice, presenting the final results as well as evaluation of the complete process at the end of the workshop. Since it's a workshop for upper level knowledge of biology, it requires multidisciplinary approach using prior knowledge from chemistry, physics, geography, informatics, art and English language. Workshop includes teacher's lectures, students brainstorming about which subject they are planning to choose for their project, students research using textbooks, scientific articles, popular lectures, reliable sources on the Internet, video material, project development, presenting the final results using posters or Prezi made by them and final meeting, where students through Summary of everything what is done in the workshop, will be able to make their own conclusions and evaluate work of themselves, other students and workshop in general. [[No other details, but the idea of hosting a workshop in a HS or college is great.--REM]]

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