Issue 18-52, December 28, 2018
- NEW HORIZONS ULTIMA THULE FLYBY ON 31 DECEMBER/1 JANUARY—GETTING THE WORD OUT TO ENGAGE THE PUBLIC IN THE FIRST EXPLORATION OF A KBO
- AAS SPLINTER: BIOSIGNATURES IN THE 2030S AND BEYOND
- PDS SMALL BODIES NODE MINOR PLANET CENTER USER GROUP (MUG)
- GEMINI OBSERVATORY: NEW LARGE AND LONG PROGRAMS
- NEXT OPAG MEETING
- ABSCICON 2019 SESSION: HAVE COMET, WILL TRAVEL!
- ABSCICON 2019: EXPLORING THE PLANETARY SYSTEM OF ALPHA CENTAURI
- NATIONAL ACADEMIES REPORT: STRATEGIC INVESTMENTS IN INSTRUMENTATION AND FACILITIES FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL SAMPLE CURATION AND ANALYSIS
- JOBS, POSITIONS, OPPORTUNITIES
NEW HORIZONS ULTIMA THULE FLYBY ON 31 DECEMBER/1 JANUARY—GETTING THE WORD OUT TO ENGAGE THE PUBLIC IN THE FIRST EXPLORATION OF A KBO
On Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, NASA’s New Horizons mission will make the first
close reconnaissance of a KBO, 2014 MU69—aka, Ultima Thule. This
challenging and scientifically exciting flyby will make the farthest
exploration of worlds in history, a billion miles beyond Pluto.
Extensive flyby social media and TV coverage begins on Dec. 28. The mission
website at http://pluto.jhuapl.edu has links to Twitter (hashtags #UltimaThule
and #UltimaFlyby), other social media channels, and live streams carrying the
event; more here: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/Where-to-Watch.php
If the government shutdown has ended, this coverage will include NASA social
accounts and NASA TV; but even if not, numerous traditional and social media,
as well as TV channels will be covering the flyby and its ensuring early results.
Public engagement is a key factor in support for the NASA planetary program.
The New Horizons mission team asks community members to help spread the
word about this exciting exploration using social media channels, mailing lists,
and other means over the next few days as we approach and then flyby Ultima.
AAS SPLINTER: BIOSIGNATURES IN THE 2030S AND BEYOND
The Origins Space Telescope is sponsoring a splinter session at the Winter
AAS meeting in Seattle on Wednesday, January 9, 2-4:30 PM, “Biosignatures
in the 2030s and Beyond,” room 401. The session is organized by Jonathan
Fortney (UC Santa Cruz), Tyler Robinson (Northern Arizona University), and
Shawn Domagal-Goldman (NASA Goddard). The main goal is to discuss the
prospects and context for detecting biosignatures from space-based and ground-
based telescopes in the coming decades. The session is composed of 7 invited
talks, each 15 minutes, along with a half-hour for open discussion. Free coffee
and sugary snacks provided!
Schedule of Speakers:
Introduction and Overview, Shawn Domagal-Goldman
Earth as a Roadmap to Understanding Exoplanet Biosignatures, Linda Sohl
Ground-Based Observations with ELTs, Mercedes Lopez-Morales
Origins Space Telescope, Tiffany Kataria
HabEx, Ty Robinson
LUVOIR, Vikki Meadows
Atmospheric Retrievals from Terrestrial Planet Spectra, Mike Line
A Bayesian Framework for Biosignature Assessment, David Catling
GEMINI OBSERVATORY : NEW LARGE AND LONG PROGRAMS
Gemini Observatory announces the opportunity for new Large and Long
Programs, with observations beginning in the 2019B semester. Letters of
Intent to propose a new Large and Long Program are due February 4, 2019.
Completed Proposals are due April 1, 2019. See the current Call for Proposals
for further information:
Large and long programs (hereafter “large programs” or LLPs) are Principal
Investigator-defined and -driven programs that, as a guideline, either require
significantly more time than a partner typically approves for a single program
or extend over two to six semesters, or both. Large programs are expected to
promote collaborations across the partnership’s communities, to have significant
scientific impact, and normally to provide a homogeneous data set, potentially
for more general use. Proposals for Large and Long programs are accepted annually.
NEXT OPAG MEETING
The next OPAG meeting is scheduled for February 5–6, 2019, in Washington, DC.
Additional details will be provided on the website as they become available.
ABSCICON 2019 SESSION: HAVE COMET, WILL TRAVEL!
We are pleased to announce that AbSciCon 2019 (June 24-28, 2019, Bellevue, WA)
will feature a session focused on the role small bodies play in promoting habitability.
Topic Area: Star-planet-planetary system interactions and habitability
Session Title: Have Comet, Will Travel: How small bodies promote habitable
conditions across the solar system?
Session ID: 66054
Abstract submission deadline: Wednesday, January 23, 2019 23:59 EST.
Small bodies in the solar system (and other planetary systems) may play a
significant role in the promotion, proliferation, dissemination and the cessation
of life and its related building blocks. The potential of such populations (i.e.,
comets and asteroids) has been demonstrated to:
1) Serve as reservoirs or catalytic surfaces that promote the production
of more complex prebiotically relevant chemistries.
2) Dynamically distribute prebiotic material across different regions of the
3) Alter the volatile and isotopic inventories of planetary atmospheres and surfaces.
4) Enable local variations of habitable niches on planetary surfaces (e.g., Earth, Mars, Icy Moons).
This session will combine recent insights from experimental, observational
and theoretical studies of ice and organic-rich environments of comets and
carbonaceous asteroids. We invite contributions aimed at revealing how the
physics and chemistry of small bodies help catalyze and distribute life’s
building blocks, across the planetary system, from early to late stages of
planetary formation. We encourage submissions that discuss two or more
of the mentioned topics. We will enable a “lightning-talk” mini-session, for
presentations of poster contributions, in order to promote wider participation
and livelier off-session discussions.
Please feel free to forward this announcement to your colleagues who might
be interested in this session.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Gal Sarid & Chris Bennett
University of Central Florida, FSI & Physics
ABSCICON 2019: EXPLORING THE PLANETARY SYSTEM OF ALPHA CENTAURI
We invite you to submit an abstract to the 2019 Astrobiology Science Conference,
which will be held on 24-28 June 2019 in Bellevue, Washington to the session
entitled “Exploring the planetary system of Alpha Centauri: current knowledge,
opportunities, and techniques”. The Alpha Centauri system (AB and Proxima)
presents a unique opportunity to detect and characterize a habitable planet in the
next decade. This is because Alpha Centauri is not merely the closest star system
to the Sun, but an unusually favorable outlier. It is 2.4 times closer than the next
nearest non-M-dwarf star, and the habitable zones around A and B stars are ~3x
larger in angle than around any other Sun-like star. An Earth twin around any of
the three stars in the system would be 25th magnitude, rather than the ~30th
magnitude typically assumed for survey missions. In addition, Proxima Centauri
hosts a potentially habitable planet, an attractive target for habitability characterization.
This session aims to survey the current knowledge about the system as well as
the opportunities, challenges, instruments, and instrument concepts to detect and
characterize the planetary systems of Alpha Centauri, and determine the potential
habitability of exoplanets there. This includes studies of binary planet formation,
dynamical stability of planetary orbits in the system, limits from current non-detections,
as well as expected planet occurrence rates. Techniques and instruments include indirect
planet detection with astrometric and RV measurements; direct imaging in optical bands
as well as thermal infrared, with current ground-based telescopes, upcoming ELTs, as
well as space telescope missions. This session will be an opportunity to bring together
the knowledge gathered on the system, and provide focus to the interdisciplinary research
needed to detect, characterize, and search for life on planets around Alpha Centauri.
Conveners: R. Belikov (NASA Ames), E. Bendek (NASA Ames),
F. Marchis (SETI Institute), O. Guyon (U. of Arizona)
The deadline for all submissions is Wednesday, 23 January 2019 23:59 EST.
PDS SMALL BODIES NODE MINOR PLANET CENTER USER GROUP (MUG)
The PDS Small Bodies Node has convened a Minor Planet Center User
Group (MUG) to represent the interests of the Minor Planet Center user
community. The MUG welcomes comments about the Minor Planet Center
via this form: https://goo.gl/forms/SgbbZds3GVep12xp2
C.R. Nugent, Olin College
(on behalf of the MUG)
NATIONAL ACADEMIES REPORT : STRATEGIC INVESTMENTS IN INSTRUMENTATION AND FACILITIES FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL SAMPLE CURATION AND ANALYSIS
To the Small Bodies community:
Note the following report that came out on Thursday, December 20, 2018,
Strategic Investments in Instrumentation and Facilities for Extraterrestrial
Sample Curation and Analysis:
The United States possesses a treasure-trove of extraterrestrial samples that
were returned to Earth via space missions over the past four decades. Analyses
of these previously returned samples have led to major breakthroughs in the
understanding of the age, composition, and origin of the solar system. Having
the instrumentation, facilities and qualified personnel to undertake analyses of
returned samples, especially from missions that take up to a decade or longer
from launch to return, is thus of paramount importance if the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA) is to capitalize fully on the investment made
in these missions, and to achieve the full scientific impact afforded by these
extraordinary samples. Planetary science may be entering a new golden era of
extraterrestrial sample return; now is the time to assess how prepared the scientific
community is to take advantage of these opportunities.
The report is now available for download:
JOBS, POSITIONS, OPPORTUNITIES
A) ASSOCIATE OR FULL PROFESSOR IN DATA SCIENCE FOR SCIENCES
INSTITUTE FOR COMPUTATIONAL SCIENCE
The Faculty of Science at the University of Zurich invites applications for an
Associate or Full Professor in Data Science for Sciences
to join us.
Through her/his research activities in the Institute for Computational Science
on the Irchel Campus, the successful candidate should demonstrate the benefits
of data science and modern data analytics for Sciences, with a preference in
Earth, Space and/or Environmental Sciences.
Her/his expertise in data science could cover for instance: computer science,
machine learning, optimization, signal processing, advanced statistics.
Her/his research applications could be for instance: satellite remote sensing,
atmospheric science, oceanography, hydrology, glaciology, planetary science,
ecology and evolution.
Her/his activities at the Institute for Computational Science should in particular
help demonstrating how open-source scientific software, data digitalization or
new collaborative approaches (e.g. hackathon, data challenges) contribute to a
successful interdisciplinary research.
Candidates for this data science position should be either
- an outstanding domain scientist with a proven track record in developing computational methods and applying modern data analytics in her/his field;
- or an outstanding data scientist with a proven track record in the proposed fields of application and a strong motivation for advancing knowledge in Earth, Space and/or Environmental Sciences.
The University of Zurich provides generous research support, including dedicated
funds for personnel, running expenses and competitive start-up packages, as well
as access to world class supercomputers and storage capacities. As Zurich’s scientific
environment includes a rich spectrum of research activities and provides extensive
opportunities for collaboration with research groups at the University of Zurich and
other leading Swiss research institutions.
The employment conditions for this position follow the legal regulations of the
University of Zurich (see www.prof.uzh.ch/de.html), which include part-time options.
The University of Zurich is an equal opportunities employer and in particular strives
to increase the percentage of women in leading positions (see
Therefore, qualified female researchers are particularly
encouraged to apply. The city of Zurich combines a stimulating cultural scene
in a modern European city with easy access to a beautiful natural landscape.
Academics with the appropriate qualifications are kindly invited to submit their
- a curriculum vitae
- lists of publications and research funding,
- detailed outlines of concepts for teaching and research
- vision for data science and its application to natural sciences
- names and contact details of three referees
Please address your application to Prof. Roland Sigel, Dean of the Faculty of
Science. Upload your application files tohttp://www.mnf.uzh.ch/dss by 1 March 2019.
For further information, please contact Prof. Romain Teyssier at [email protected].
B) POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER POSITION AT JPL
We seek a postdoctoral researcher to conduct kinetics and
spectroscopic studies on chemical processes relevant to atmospheric
compositions of Mars and Titan. The research focus will be on
gas-phase and gas-surface reactions involving organic molecules to
enhance the scientific return of NASA missions to Mars, Titan and
other planetary bodies.
Applicants should have a Ph.D. in chemistry or related discipline with
expertise in one or more of the following: physical organic chemistry,
kinetics, optical and mass spectroscopy, and instrument development.
Documented publication record in internationally circulated,
peer-reviewed journals is essential. Initial appointment is full-time
for one year with possible extensions based upon satisfactory progress
and available funding. Position is available immediately; applications
will be considered until position is filled.
The California Institute of Technology is an Equal
Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will
receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color,
religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin,
disability, age, or protected veteran status.
Please email a cover letter stating your research accomplishments and
interests, a curriculum vitae, representative publications, and
contact information for three references to:
Dr. Xu Zhang ([email protected])
Dr. Stanley Sander ([email protected])
Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology
C) POSTDOCTORAL POSITION IN PLANETARY SCIENCE AT MIT
The MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
invites applications for a Postdoctoral Scholar to join Professor de
Kleer’s planetary astronomy group. The de Kleer group utilizes
cutting-edge astronomical facilities at optical, infrared, and radio
wavelengths to study a diverse array of Solar System topics including
planetary and satellite atmospheres, satellite surfaces and
geophysics, and small bodies. Applicants are sought from a broad range
of research areas within astronomy and planetary science that overlap
with or complement ongoing work in the group, including both Solar
System and extrasolar planets. Observational experience is beneficial
but not required. The successful candidate will have opportunities to
mentor graduate and undergraduate students, and will benefit from the
dynamic and interdisciplinary environment within the EAPS department
and across the Institute.
The appointment starts on or after July 2019 and is initially for one
year, with renewal for up to two additional years. Consideration of
applications will begin on January 10, 2019, and applications will be
considered until the position is filled. Please see the full posting
for more information and for instructions on submitting applications:
Send submissions to:
Anne Verbiscer, DPS Secretary ([email protected])
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