PMCC PMCC

Search tips
Search criteria

Advanced
Results 1-25 (412938)

Clipboard (0)
None

Related Articles

1.  The two-box model of climate: limitations and applications to planetary habitability and maximum entropy production studies 
The ‘two-box model’ of planetary climate is discussed. This model has been used to demonstrate consistency of the equator–pole temperature gradient on Earth, Mars and Titan with what would be predicted from a principle of maximum entropy production (MEP). While useful for exposition and for generating first-order estimates of planetary heat transports, it has too low a resolution to investigate climate systems with strong feedbacks. A two-box MEP model agrees well with the observed day : night temperature contrast observed on the extrasolar planet HD 189733b.
doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0312
PMCID: PMC2871910  PMID: 20368253
climate; entropy production; extrasolar planets; Mars; Titan
2.  A Scientometric Prediction of the Discovery of the First Potentially Habitable Planet with a Mass Similar to Earth 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13061.
Background
The search for a habitable extrasolar planet has long interested scientists, but only recently have the tools become available to search for such planets. In the past decades, the number of known extrasolar planets has ballooned into the hundreds, and with it, the expectation that the discovery of the first Earth-like extrasolar planet is not far off.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here, we develop a novel metric of habitability for discovered planets and use this to arrive at a prediction for when the first habitable planet will be discovered. Using a bootstrap analysis of currently discovered exoplanets, we predict the discovery of the first Earth-like planet to be announced in the first half of 2011, with the likeliest date being early May 2011.
Conclusions/Significance
Our predictions, using only the properties of previously discovered exoplanets, accord well with external estimates for the discovery of the first potentially habitable extrasolar planet and highlight the the usefulness of predictive scientometric techniques to understand the pace of scientific discovery in many fields.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013061
PMCID: PMC2949384  PMID: 20957226
3.  Testing Anthropic Selection: A Climate Change Example 
Astrobiology  2011;11(2):105-114.
Abstract
Planetary anthropic selection, the idea that Earth has unusual properties since, otherwise, we would not be here to observe it, is a controversial idea. This paper proposes a methodology by which to test anthropic proposals by comparison of Earth to synthetic populations of Earth-like planets. The paper illustrates this approach by investigating possible anthropic selection for high (or low) rates of Milankovitch-driven climate change. Three separate tests are investigated: (1) Earth-Moon properties and their effect on obliquity; (2) Individual planet locations and their effect on eccentricity variation; (3) The overall structure of the Solar System and its effect on eccentricity variation. In all three cases, the actual Earth/Solar System has unusually low Milankovitch frequencies compared to similar alternative systems. All three results are statistically significant at the 5% or better level, and the probability of all three occurring by chance is less than 10−5. It therefore appears that there has been anthropic selection for slow Milankovitch cycles. This implies possible selection for a stable climate, which, if true, undermines the Gaia hypothesis and also suggests that planets with Earth-like levels of biodiversity are likely to be very rare. Key Words: Planetary habitability and biosignatures—Intelligence—Paleoenvironment and paleoclimate—Co-evolution of Earth and life—Complex life. Astrobiology 11, 105–114.
doi:10.1089/ast.2010.0475
PMCID: PMC3697027  PMID: 21401338
4.  Models of very-low-mass stars, brown dwarfs and exoplanets 
Within the next few years, GAIA and several instruments aiming to image extrasolar planets will be ready. In parallel, low-mass planets are being sought around red dwarfs, which offer more favourable conditions, for both radial velocity detection and transit studies, than solar-type stars. In this paper, the authors of a model atmosphere code that has allowed the detection of water vapour in the atmosphere of hot Jupiters review recent advances in modelling the stellar to substellar transition. The revised solar oxygen abundances and cloud model allow the photometric and spectroscopic properties of this transition to be reproduced for the first time. Also presented are highlight results of a model atmosphere grid for stars, brown dwarfs and extrasolar planets.
doi:10.1098/rsta.2011.0269
PMCID: PMC3350648  PMID: 22547243
PHOENIX; CO5BOLD; very-low-mass stars; brown dwarfs; stars; opacities
5.  How Safe Is Safe Enough? Radiation Risk for a Human Mission to Mars 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e74988.
Astronauts on a mission to Mars would be exposed for up to 3 years to galactic cosmic rays (GCR) — made up of high-energy protons and high charge (Z) and energy (E) (HZE) nuclei. GCR exposure rate increases about three times as spacecraft venture out of Earth orbit into deep space where protection of the Earth's magnetosphere and solid body are lost. NASA's radiation standard limits astronaut exposures to a 3% risk of exposure induced death (REID) at the upper 95% confidence interval (CI) of the risk estimate. Fatal cancer risk has been considered the dominant risk for GCR, however recent epidemiological analysis of radiation risks for circulatory diseases allow for predictions of REID for circulatory diseases to be included with cancer risk predictions for space missions. Using NASA's models of risks and uncertainties, we predicted that central estimates for radiation induced mortality and morbidity could exceed 5% and 10% with upper 95% CI near 10% and 20%, respectively for a Mars mission. Additional risks to the central nervous system (CNS) and qualitative differences in the biological effects of GCR compared to terrestrial radiation may significantly increase these estimates, and will require new knowledge to evaluate.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074988
PMCID: PMC3797711  PMID: 24146746
6.  Spectral Fingerprints of Earth-like Planets Around FGK Stars 
Astrobiology  2013;13(3):251-269.
Abstract
We present model atmospheres for an Earth-like planet orbiting the entire grid of main sequence FGK stars with effective temperatures ranging from Teff=4250 K to Teff=7000 K in 250 K intervals. We have modeled the remotely detectable spectra of Earth-like planets for clear and cloudy atmospheres at the 1 AU equivalent distance from the VIS to IR (0.4 to 20 μm) to compare detectability of features in different wavelength ranges in accordance with the James Webb Space Telescope and future design concepts to characterize exo-Earths. We have also explored the effect of the stellar UV levels as well as spectral energy distribution on a terrestrial atmosphere, concentrating on detectable atmospheric features that indicate habitability on Earth, namely, H2O, O3, CH4, N2O, and CH3Cl.
The increase in UV dominates changes of O3, OH, CH4, N2O, and CH3Cl, whereas the increase in stellar temperature dominates changes in H2O. The overall effect as stellar effective temperatures and corresponding UV increase is a lower surface temperature of the planet due to a bigger part of the stellar flux being reflected at short wavelengths, as well as increased photolysis. Earth-like atmosphere models show more O3 and OH but less stratospheric CH4, N2O, CH3Cl, and tropospheric H2O (but more stratospheric H2O) with increasing effective temperature of main sequence stars. The corresponding detectable spectral features, on the other hand, show different detectability depending on the wavelength observed.
We concentrate on directly imaged planets here as a framework to interpret future light curves, direct imaging, and secondary eclipse measurements of atmospheres of terrestrial planets in the habitable zone at varying orbital positions. Key Words: Habitability—Planetary atmospheres—Extrasolar terrestrial planets—Spectroscopic biosignatures. Astrobiology 13, 251–269.
doi:10.1089/ast.2012.0888
PMCID: PMC3612284  PMID: 23537136
7.  Remote automated multi-generational growth and observation of an animal in low Earth orbit 
The ultimate survival of humanity is dependent upon colonization of other planetary bodies. Key challenges to such habitation are (patho)physiologic changes induced by known, and unknown, factors associated with long-duration and distance space exploration. However, we currently lack biological models for detecting and studying these changes. Here, we use a remote automated culture system to successfully grow an animal in low Earth orbit for six months. Our observations, over 12 generations, demonstrate that the multi-cellular soil worm Caenorhabditis elegans develops from egg to adulthood and produces progeny with identical timings in space as on the Earth. Additionally, these animals display normal rates of movement when fully fed, comparable declines in movement when starved, and appropriate growth arrest upon starvation and recovery upon re-feeding. These observations establish C. elegans as a biological model that can be used to detect changes in animal growth, development, reproduction and behaviour in response to environmental conditions during long-duration spaceflight. This experimental system is ready to be incorporated on future, unmanned interplanetary missions and could be used to study cost-effectively the effects of such missions on these biological processes and the efficacy of new life support systems and radiation shielding technologies.
doi:10.1098/rsif.2011.0716
PMCID: PMC3262433  PMID: 22130552
Caenorhabditis elegans; spaceflight; astrobiology; interplanetary transfer
8.  Remote sensing and human health: new sensors and new opportunities. 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2000;6(3):217-227.
Since the launch of Landsat-1 28 years ago, remotely sensed data have been used to map features on the earth's surface. An increasing number of health studies have used remotely sensed data for monitoring, surveillance, or risk mapping, particularly of vector-borne diseases. Nearly all studies used data from Landsat, the French Système Pour l'Observation de la Terre, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer. New sensor systems are in orbit, or soon to be launched, whose data may prove useful for characterizing and monitoring the spatial and temporal patterns of infectious diseases. Increased computing power and spatial modeling capabilities of geographic information systems could extend the use of remote sensing beyond the research community into operational disease surveillance and control. This article illustrates how remotely sensed data have been used in health applications and assesses earth-observing satellites that could detect and map environmental variables related to the distribution of vector-borne and other diseases.
PMCID: PMC2640871  PMID: 10827111
9.  Response of Atmospheric Biomarkers to NOx-Induced Photochemistry Generated by Stellar Cosmic Rays for Earth-like Planets in the Habitable Zone of M Dwarf Stars 
Astrobiology  2012;12(12):1109-1122.
Abstract
Understanding whether M dwarf stars may host habitable planets with Earth-like atmospheres and biospheres is a major goal in exoplanet research. If such planets exist, the question remains as to whether they could be identified via spectral signatures of biomarkers. Such planets may be exposed to extreme intensities of cosmic rays that could perturb their atmospheric photochemistry. Here, we consider stellar activity of M dwarfs ranging from quiet up to strong flaring conditions and investigate one particular effect upon biomarkers, namely, the ability of secondary electrons caused by stellar cosmic rays to break up atmospheric molecular nitrogen (N2), which leads to production of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the planetary atmosphere, hence affecting biomarkers such as ozone (O3). We apply a stationary model, that is, without a time dependence; hence we are calculating the limiting case where the atmospheric chemistry response time of the biomarkers is assumed to be slow and remains constant compared with rapid forcing by the impinging stellar flares. This point should be further explored in future work with time-dependent models. We estimate the NOx production using an air shower approach and evaluate the implications using a climate-chemical model of the planetary atmosphere. O3 formation proceeds via the reaction O+O2+M→O3+M. At high NOx abundances, the O atoms arise mainly from NO2 photolysis, whereas on Earth this occurs via the photolysis of molecular oxygen (O2). For the flaring case, O3 is mainly destroyed via direct titration, NO+O3→NO2+O2, and not via the familiar catalytic cycle photochemistry, which occurs on Earth. For scenarios with low O3, Rayleigh scattering by the main atmospheric gases (O2, N2, and CO2) became more important for shielding the planetary surface from UV radiation. A major result of this work is that the biomarker O3 survived all the stellar-activity scenarios considered except for the strong case, whereas the biomarker nitrous oxide (N2O) could survive in the planetary atmosphere under all conditions of stellar activity considered here, which clearly has important implications for missions that aim to detect spectroscopic biomarkers. Key Words: M dwarf—Atmosphere—Earth-like—Biomarkers—Stellar cosmic rays. Astrobiology 12, 1109–1122.
doi:10.1089/ast.2011.0682
PMCID: PMC3522229  PMID: 23215581
10.  The Effect of a Strong Stellar Flare on the Atmospheric Chemistry of an Earth-like Planet Orbiting an M Dwarf 
Astrobiology  2010;10(7):751-771.
Abstract
Main sequence M stars pose an interesting problem for astrobiology: their abundance in our galaxy makes them likely targets in the hunt for habitable planets, but their strong chromospheric activity produces high-energy radiation and charged particles that may be detrimental to life. We studied the impact of the 1985 April 12 flare from the M dwarf AD Leonis (AD Leo), simulating the effects from both UV radiation and protons on the atmospheric chemistry of a hypothetical, Earth-like planet located within its habitable zone. Based on observations of solar proton events and the Neupert effect, we estimated a proton flux associated with the flare of 5.9 × 108 protons cm−2 sr−1 s−1 for particles with energies >10 MeV. Then we calculated the abundance of nitrogen oxides produced by the flare by scaling the production of these compounds during a large solar proton event called the Carrington event. The simulations were performed with a 1-D photochemical model coupled to a 1-D radiative/convective model. Our results indicate that the UV radiation emitted during the flare does not produce a significant change in the ozone column depth of the planet. When the action of protons is included, the ozone depletion reaches a maximum of 94% two years after the flare for a planet with no magnetic field. At the peak of the flare, the calculated UV fluxes that reach the surface, in the wavelength ranges that are damaging for life, exceed those received on Earth during less than 100 s. Therefore, flares may not present a direct hazard for life on the surface of an orbiting habitable planet. Given that AD Leo is one of the most magnetically active M dwarfs known, this conclusion should apply to planets around other M dwarfs with lower levels of chromospheric activity. Key Words: M dwarf—Flare—Habitable zone—Planetary atmospheres. Astrobiology 10, 751–771.
doi:10.1089/ast.2009.0376
PMCID: PMC3103837  PMID: 20879863
11.  Extreme alien light allows survival of terrestrial bacteria 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:2198.
Photosynthetic organisms provide a crucial coupling between the Sun's energy and metabolic processes supporting life on Earth. Searches for extraterrestrial life focus on seeking planets with similar incident light intensities and environments. However the impact of abnormal photon arrival times has not been considered. Here we present the counterintuitive result that broad classes of extreme alien light could support terrestrial bacterial life whereas sources more similar to our Sun might not. Our detailed microscopic model uses state-of-the-art empirical inputs including Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) images. It predicts a highly nonlinear survivability for the basic lifeform Rsp. Photometricum whereby toxic photon feeds get converted into a benign metabolic energy supply by an interplay between the membrane's spatial structure and temporal excitation processes. More generally, our work suggests a new handle for manipulating terrestrial photosynthesis using currently-available extreme value statistics photon sources.
doi:10.1038/srep02198
PMCID: PMC3711049  PMID: 23852157
12.  Global Data for Ecology and Epidemiology: A Novel Algorithm for Temporal Fourier Processing MODIS Data 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(1):e1408.
Background
Remotely-sensed environmental data from earth-orbiting satellites are increasingly used to model the distribution and abundance of both plant and animal species, especially those of economic or conservation importance. Time series of data from the MODerate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors on-board NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites offer the potential to capture environmental thermal and vegetation seasonality, through temporal Fourier analysis, more accurately than was previously possible using the NOAA Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) sensor data. MODIS data are composited over 8- or 16-day time intervals that pose unique problems for temporal Fourier analysis. Applying standard techniques to MODIS data can introduce errors of up to 30% in the estimation of the amplitudes and phases of the Fourier harmonics.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We present a novel spline-based algorithm that overcomes the processing problems of composited MODIS data. The algorithm is tested on artificial data generated using randomly selected values of both amplitudes and phases, and provides an accurate estimate of the input variables under all conditions. The algorithm was then applied to produce layers that capture the seasonality in MODIS data for the period from 2001 to 2005.
Conclusions/Significance
Global temporal Fourier processed images of 1 km MODIS data for Middle Infrared Reflectance, day- and night-time Land Surface Temperature (LST), Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), and Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) are presented for ecological and epidemiological applications. The finer spatial and temporal resolution, combined with the greater geolocational and spectral accuracy of the MODIS instruments, compared with previous multi-temporal data sets, mean that these data may be used with greater confidence in species' distribution modelling.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001408
PMCID: PMC2171368  PMID: 18183289
13.  Effect of Solar Particle Event Radiation on Gastrointestinal Tract Bacterial Translocation and Immune Activation 
Radiation research  2011;175(4):485-492.
Space flight conditions within the protection of Earth’s gravitational field have been shown to alter immune responses, which could lead to potentially detrimental pathology. An additional risk of extended space travel outside the Earth’s gravitational field is the effect of solar particle event (SPE) radiation exposure on the immune system. Organisms that could lead to infection include endogenous, latent viruses, colonizing pathogenics, and commensals, as well as exogenous microbes present in the spacecraft or other astronauts. In this report, the effect of SPE-like radiation on containment of commensal bacteria and the innate immune response induced by its breakdown was investigated at the radiation energies, doses and dose rates expected during an extravehicular excursion outside the Earth’s gravitational field. A transient increase in serum lipopolysaccharide was observed 1 day after irradiation and was accompanied by an increase in acute-phase reactants and circulating proinflammatory cytokines, indicating immune activation. Baseline levels were reestablished by 5 days postirradiation. These findings suggest that astronauts exposed to SPE radiation could have impaired containment of colonizing bacteria and associated immune activation.
doi:10.1667/RR2373.1
PMCID: PMC3572900  PMID: 21294608
14.  Antarctic Harsh Environment as Natural Stress Model: Impact on Salivary Immunoglobulins, Transforming Growth Factor-β and Cortisol Level 
The Antarctic continent on the planet Earth is full of environmental extremes. It is considered as natural stress model. Therefore, the present study examined the effect of harsh environment on the certain salivary markers of 28th Indian Antarctic expeditioners. Thirty healthy men and women (median age 36 year; range 22–61 year) participated in this study. Parameters measured were salivary IgA (SIgA), IgM (SIgM), TGF-β and cortisol level at three different time points: (I) before leaving India on 26th October 2008 for base line level; (II) after 1 month on-board journey on 31st January 2009 in Southern Ocean and (III) after 1 month staying at Maitri, Antarctica on 3rd March 2009. Our observation indicated that Ship borne journey and Antarctic environment increased the SIgA levels while that of SIgM level was not altered on-board but decreased by staying for 1 month at Antarctica. No significant alteration was found in the TGF-β and cortisol level at any point of time. The present study concluded that ship borne journey and Antarctic environment may induce the SIgA level while SIgM level decreased in environmental extremes of Antarctica.
doi:10.1007/s12291-012-0213-z
PMCID: PMC3477453  PMID: 24082460
Cytokine; Immunoglobulins; Antarctica
15.  Planetary Organic Chemistry and the Origins of Biomolecules 
Organic chemistry on a planetary scale is likely to have transformed carbon dioxide and reduced carbon species delivered to an accreting Earth. According to various models for the origin of life on Earth, biological molecules that jump-started Darwinian evolution arose via this planetary chemistry. The grandest of these models assumes that ribonucleic acid (RNA) arose prebiotically, together with components for compartments that held it and a primitive metabolism that nourished it. Unfortunately, it has been challenging to identify possible prebiotic chemistry that might have created RNA. Organic molecules, given energy, have a well-known propensity to form multiple products, sometimes referred to collectively as “tar” or “tholin.” These mixtures appear to be unsuited to support Darwinian processes, and certainly have never been observed to spontaneously yield a homochiral genetic polymer. To date, proposed solutions to this challenge either involve too much direct human intervention to satisfy many in the community, or generate molecules that are unreactive “dead ends” under standard conditions of temperature and pressure. Carbohydrates, organic species having carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms in a ratio of 1:2:1 and an aldehyde or ketone group, conspicuously embody this challenge. They are components of RNA and their reactivity can support both interesting spontaneous chemistry as part of a “carbohydrate world,” but they also easily form mixtures, polymers and tars. We describe here the latest thoughts on how on this challenge, focusing on how it might be resolved using minerals containing borate, silicate, and molybdate, inter alia.
Borates, silicates, and other minerals may have promoted prebiotic chemical reactions in which organic molecules produced RNA, rather than “dead end” polymers and tars.
doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a003467
PMCID: PMC2890202  PMID: 20504964
16.  A Low Cost Automatic Detection and Ranging System for Space Surveillance in the Medium Earth Orbit Region and Beyond 
Sensors (Basel, Switzerland)  2014;14(2):2703-2731.
The space around the Earth is filled with man-made objects, which orbit the planet at altitudes ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of kilometers. Keeping an eye on all objects in Earth's orbit, useful and not useful, operational or not, is known as Space Surveillance. Due to cost considerations, the space surveillance solutions beyond the Low Earth Orbit region are mainly based on optical instruments. This paper presents a solution for real-time automatic detection and ranging of space objects of altitudes ranging from below the Medium Earth Orbit up to 40,000 km, based on two low cost observation systems built using commercial cameras and marginally professional telescopes, placed 37 km apart, operating as a large baseline stereovision system. The telescopes are pointed towards any visible region of the sky, and the system is able to automatically calibrate the orientation parameters using automatic matching of reference stars from an online catalog, with a very high tolerance for the initial guess of the sky region and camera orientation. The difference between the left and right image of a synchronized stereo pair is used for automatic detection of the satellite pixels, using an original difference computation algorithm that is capable of high sensitivity and a low false positive rate. The use of stereovision provides a strong means of removing false positives, and avoids the need for prior knowledge of the orbits observed, the system being able to detect at the same time all types of objects that fall within the measurement range and are visible on the image.
doi:10.3390/s140202703
PMCID: PMC3958257  PMID: 24521941
space surveillance; stereo vision; automatic calibration; object detection; ranging
17.  Gaia as a complex adaptive system. 
We define the Gaia system of life and its environment on Earth, review the status of the Gaia theory, introduce potentially relevant concepts from complexity theory, then try to apply them to Gaia. We consider whether Gaia is a complex adaptive system (CAS) in terms of its behaviour and suggest that the system is self-organizing but does not reside in a critical state. Gaia has supported abundant life for most of the last 3.8 Gyr. Large perturbations have occasionally suppressed life but the system has always recovered without losing the capacity for large-scale free energy capture and recycling of essential elements. To illustrate how complexity theory can help us understand the emergence of planetary-scale order, we present a simple cellular automata (CA) model of the imaginary planet Daisyworld. This exhibits emergent self-regulation as a consequence of feedback coupling between life and its environment. Local spatial interaction, which was absent from the original model, can destabilize the system by generating bifurcation regimes. Variation and natural selection tend to remove this instability. With mutation in the model system, it exhibits self-organizing adaptive behaviour in its response to forcing. We close by suggesting how artificial life ('Alife') techniques may enable more comprehensive feasibility tests of Gaia.
doi:10.1098/rstb.2001.1014
PMCID: PMC1692971  PMID: 12079529
18.  Remote sensing-based time series models for malaria early warning in the highlands of Ethiopia 
Malaria Journal  2012;11:165.
Background
Malaria is one of the leading public health problems in most of sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Ethiopia. Almost all demographic groups are at risk of malaria because of seasonal and unstable transmission of the disease. Therefore, there is a need to develop malaria early-warning systems to enhance public health decision making for control and prevention of malaria epidemics. Data from orbiting earth-observing sensors can monitor environmental risk factors that trigger malaria epidemics. Remotely sensed environmental indicators were used to examine the influences of climatic and environmental variability on temporal patterns of malaria cases in the Amhara region of Ethiopia.
Methods
In this study seasonal autoregressive integrated moving average (SARIMA) models were used to quantify the relationship between malaria cases and remotely sensed environmental variables, including rainfall, land-surface temperature (LST), vegetation indices (NDVI and EVI), and actual evapotranspiration (ETa) with lags ranging from one to three months. Predictions from the best model with environmental variables were compared to the actual observations from the last 12 months of the time series.
Results
Malaria cases exhibited positive associations with LST at a lag of one month and positive associations with indicators of moisture (rainfall, EVI and ETa) at lags from one to three months. SARIMA models that included these environmental covariates had better fits and more accurate predictions, as evidenced by lower AIC and RMSE values, than models without environmental covariates.
Conclusions
Malaria risk indicators such as satellite-based rainfall estimates, LST, EVI, and ETa exhibited significant lagged associations with malaria cases in the Amhara region and improved model fit and prediction accuracy. These variables can be monitored frequently and extensively across large geographic areas using data from earth-observing sensors to support public health decisions.
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-11-165
PMCID: PMC3493314  PMID: 22583705
Malaria; Early warning; Early detection; Remote sensing; Climate; Time series model; Forecast
19.  Chaotic Exchange of Solid Material Between Planetary Systems: Implications for Lithopanspermia 
Astrobiology  2012;12(8):754-774.
Abstract
We examined a low-energy mechanism for the transfer of meteoroids between two planetary systems embedded in a star cluster using quasi-parabolic orbits of minimal energy. Using Monte Carlo simulations, we found that the exchange of meteoroids could have been significantly more efficient than previously estimated. Our study is relevant to astrobiology, as it addresses whether life on Earth could have been transferred to other planetary systems in the Solar System's birth cluster and whether life on Earth could have been transferred from beyond the Solar System. In the Solar System, the timescale over which solid material was delivered to the region from where it could be transferred via this mechanism likely extended to several hundred million years (as indicated by the 3.8–4.0 Ga epoch of the Late Heavy Bombardment). This timescale could have overlapped with the lifetime of the Solar birth cluster (∼100–500 Myr). Therefore, we conclude that lithopanspermia is an open possibility if life had an early start. Adopting parameters from the minimum mass solar nebula, considering a range of planetesimal size distributions derived from observations of asteroids and Kuiper Belt objects and theoretical coagulation models, and taking into account Oort Cloud formation models, we discerned that the expected number of bodies with mass>10 kg that could have been transferred between the Sun and its nearest cluster neighbor could be of the order of 1014 to 3·1016, with transfer timescales of tens of millions of years. We estimate that of the order of 3·108·l (km) could potentially be life-bearing, where l is the depth of Earth's crust in kilometers that was ejected as the result of the early bombardment. Key Words: Extrasolar planets—Interplanetary dust—Interstellar meteorites—Lithopanspermia. Astrobiology 12, 754–774.
doi:10.1089/ast.2012.0825
PMCID: PMC3440031  PMID: 22897115
20.  A basic introduction to the thermodynamics of the Earth system far from equilibrium and maximum entropy production 
The Earth system is remarkably different from its planetary neighbours in that it shows pronounced, strong global cycling of matter. These global cycles result in the maintenance of a unique thermodynamic state of the Earth's atmosphere which is far from thermodynamic equilibrium (TE). Here, I provide a simple introduction of the thermodynamic basis to understand why Earth system processes operate so far away from TE. I use a simple toy model to illustrate the application of non-equilibrium thermodynamics and to classify applications of the proposed principle of maximum entropy production (MEP) to such processes into three different cases of contrasting flexibility in the boundary conditions. I then provide a brief overview of the different processes within the Earth system that produce entropy, review actual examples of MEP in environmental and ecological systems, and discuss the role of interactions among dissipative processes in making boundary conditions more flexible. I close with a brief summary and conclusion.
doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0310
PMCID: PMC2871909  PMID: 20368248
thermodynamics; interactions; Earth system science; ecosystems
21.  Measurement of microbial activity in soil by colorimetric observation of in situ dye reduction: an approach to detection of extraterrestrial life 
BMC Microbiology  2002;2:22.
Background
Detecting microbial life in extraterrestrial locations is a goal of space exploration because of ecological and health concerns about possible contamination of other planets with earthly organisms, and vice versa. Previously we suggested a method for life detection based on the fact that living entities require a continual input of energy accessed through coupled oxidations and reductions (an electron transport chain). We demonstrated using earthly soils that the identification of extracted components of electron transport chains is useful for remote detection of a chemical signature of life. The instrument package developed used supercritical carbon dioxide for soil extraction, followed by chromatography or electrophoresis to separate extracted compounds, with final detection by voltammetry and tandem mass-spectrometry.
Results
Here we used Earth-derived soils to develop a related life detection system based on direct observation of a biological redox signature. We measured the ability of soil microbial communities to reduce artificial electron acceptors. Living organisms in pure culture and those naturally found in soil were shown to reduce 2,3-dichlorophenol indophenol (DCIP) and the tetrazolium dye 2,3-bis(2-methoxy-4-nitro-5-sulfophenyl)-2H-tetrazolium-5-carboxanilide inner salt (XTT). Uninoculated or sterilized controls did not reduce the dyes. A soil from Antarctica that was determined by chemical signature and DNA analysis to be sterile also did not reduce the dyes.
Conclusion
Observation of dye reduction, supplemented with extraction and identification of only a few specific signature redox-active biochemicals such as porphyrins or quinones, provides a simplified means to detect a signature of life in the soils of other planets or their moons.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-2-22
PMCID: PMC119848  PMID: 12150716
22.  Performance of Orbital Neutron Instruments for Spatially Resolved Hydrogen Measurements of Airless Planetary Bodies 
Astrobiology  2010;10(2):183-200.
Abstract
Orbital neutron spectroscopy has become a standard technique for measuring planetary surface compositions from orbit. While this technique has led to important discoveries, such as the deposits of hydrogen at the Moon and Mars, a limitation is its poor spatial resolution. For omni-directional neutron sensors, spatial resolutions are 1–1.5 times the spacecraft's altitude above the planetary surface (or 40–600 km for typical orbital altitudes). Neutron sensors with enhanced spatial resolution have been proposed, and one with a collimated field of view is scheduled to fly on a mission to measure lunar polar hydrogen. No quantitative studies or analyses have been published that evaluate in detail the detection and sensitivity limits of spatially resolved neutron measurements. Here, we describe two complementary techniques for evaluating the hydrogen sensitivity of spatially resolved neutron sensors: an analytic, closed-form expression that has been validated with Lunar Prospector neutron data, and a three-dimensional modeling technique. The analytic technique, called the Spatially resolved Neutron Analytic Sensitivity Approximation (SNASA), provides a straightforward method to evaluate spatially resolved neutron data from existing instruments as well as to plan for future mission scenarios. We conclude that the existing detector—the Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND)—scheduled to launch on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will have hydrogen sensitivities that are over an order of magnitude poorer than previously estimated. We further conclude that a sensor with a geometric factor of ∼ 100 cm2 Sr (compared to the LEND geometric factor of ∼ 10.9 cm2 Sr) could make substantially improved measurements of the lunar polar hydrogen spatial distribution. Key Words: Planetary instrumentation—Planetary science—Moon—Spacecraft experiments—Hydrogen. Astrobiology 10, 183–200.
doi:10.1089/ast.2009.0401
PMCID: PMC2956572  PMID: 20298147
23.  Earth’s Earliest Atmospheres 
Earth is the one known example of an inhabited planet and to current knowledge the likeliest site of the one known origin of life. Here we discuss the origin of Earth’s atmosphere and ocean and some of the environmental conditions of the early Earth as they may relate to the origin of life. A key punctuating event in the narrative is the Moon-forming impact, partly because it made Earth for a short time absolutely uninhabitable, and partly because it sets the boundary conditions for Earth’s subsequent evolution. If life began on Earth, as opposed to having migrated here, it would have done so after the Moon-forming impact. What took place before the Moon formed determined the bulk properties of the Earth and probably determined the overall compositions and sizes of its atmospheres and oceans. What took place afterward animated these materials. One interesting consequence of the Moon-forming impact is that the mantle is devolatized, so that the volatiles subsequently fell out in a kind of condensation sequence. This ensures that the volatiles were concentrated toward the surface so that, for example, the oceans were likely salty from the start. We also point out that an atmosphere generated by impact degassing would tend to have a composition reflective of the impacting bodies (rather than the mantle), and these are almost without exception strongly reducing and volatile-rich. A consequence is that, although CO- or methane-rich atmospheres are not necessarily stable as steady states, they are quite likely to have existed as long-lived transients, many times. With CO comes abundant chemical energy in a metastable package, and with methane comes hydrogen cyanide and ammonia as important albeit less abundant gases.
Life probably arose on Earth after the moon-forming impact. It and subsequent impacts probably created transient reducing methane- or CO-rich atmospheres that provided abundant chemical energy.
doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a004895
PMCID: PMC2944365  PMID: 20573713
24.  Terra and Aqua: new data for epidemiology and public health 
Earth-observing satellites have only recently been exploited for the measurement of environmental variables of relevance to epidemiology and public health. Such work has relied on sensors with spatial, spectral and geometric constraints that have allowed large-area questions associated with the epidemiology of vector-borne diseases to be addressed. Moving from pretty maps to pragmatic control tools requires a suite of satellite-derived environmental data of higher fidelity, spatial resolution, spectral depth and at similar temporal resolutions to existing meteorological satellites. Information derived from sensors onboard the next generation of moderate-resolution Earth-observing sensors may provide the key. The MODIS and ASTER sensors onboard the Terra and Aqua platforms provide substantial improvements in spatial resolution, number of spectral channels, choices of bandwidths, radiometric calibration and a much-enhanced set of pre-processed and freely available products. These sensors provide an important advance in moderate-resolution remote sensing and the data available to those concerned with improving public health.
PMCID: PMC3337546  PMID: 22545030
Remote sensing; Terra; Aqua; MODIS; ASTER; Vector-borne diseases
25.  Testing Paradigms of Ecosystem Change under Climate Warming in Antarctica 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55093.
Antarctic marine ecosystems have undergone significant changes as a result of human activities in the past and are now responding in varied and often complicated ways to climate change impacts. Recent years have seen the emergence of large-scale mechanistic explanations–or “paradigms of change”–that attempt to synthesize our understanding of past and current changes. In many cases, these paradigms are based on observations that are spatially and temporally patchy. The West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), one of Earth’s most rapidly changing regions, has been an area of particular research focus. A recently proposed mechanistic explanation for observed changes in the WAP region relates changes in penguin populations to variability in krill biomass and regional warming. While this scheme is attractive for its simplicity and chronology, it may not account for complex spatio-temporal processes that drive ecosystem dynamics in the region. It might also be difficult to apply to other Antarctic regions that are experiencing some, though not all, of the changes documented for the WAP. We use qualitative network models of differing levels of complexity to test paradigms of change for the WAP ecosystem. Importantly, our approach captures the emergent effects of feedback processes in complex ecological networks and provides a means to identify and incorporate uncertain linkages between network elements. Our findings highlight key areas of uncertainty in the drivers of documented trends, and suggest that a greater level of model complexity is needed in devising explanations for ecosystem change in the Southern Ocean. We suggest that our network approach to evaluating a recent and widely cited paradigm of change for the Antarctic region could be broadly applied in hypothesis testing for other regions and research fields.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055093
PMCID: PMC3566216  PMID: 23405116

Results 1-25 (412938)