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Astrophysics Colloquium

Probing the Origins of Our Solar System: Future Studies of Comets with Astrophysics Assets
Presented by Stefanie Milam
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Thursday, September 24, 2020
Virtual Event starts at 11:00 A.M.

The isotopic enrichments measured in volatile primitive materials probably had their origin in low-temperature (10K) chemistry similar to that found in molecular clouds. This has led to the proposal, supported by theory, that these anomalies derived their heritage from the prestellar period. Previous ground- and space-based observations of small bodies, recent Rosetta results, as well as laboratory measurements of cometary material obtained from Stardust and other primitive materials, suggest that small bodies contain a mixture of the products from both interstellar and nebular chemistries. A major observational challenge in cometary science is to quantify the extent to which chemical compounds, including complex organics, can be linked to either reservoir and what the native molecular complexity is within a comet. As technology and new facilities come onboard, we are carefully considering ways to remotely detect the complex species identified in situ and in returned samples. This presentation will include new observations with ALMA and other facilities and plans for future facilities, such as JWST. Implications for delivery of organics and prebiotic species from comets will also be discussed.

JPL Contact: Darek Lis

About the Speaker
Dr. Milam works in the Astrochemistry Laboratory at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (Greenbelt, Maryland USA). She is an expert in rotational spectroscopy, observations, and laboratory modeling of astrochemistry and molecular astrophysics of the interstellar medium, evolved stars, star formation regions, and comets with an emphasis on isotopic fractionation and astrobiology of primitive materials. Dr. Milam maintains a renowned observational program with radio telescopes around the world, and with space-based observatories, to routinely observe comets as part of an international collaboration. Additionally, she conducts high resolution spectroscopic studies of evolved stars, star forming regions, and the Galactic interstellar medium, specializing in isotopes. She also has a laboratory dedicated to simulate interstellar/cometary/planetary ices and detect trace species employing the same techniques used for remote observations to help constrain the chemical complexity of the ices, the amount of processing that occurs, and interpret past and present data from missions that observe ice features. Dr. Milam has been working on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as Deputy Project Scientist for Planetary Science since 2014. Under this role she helped establish the next generation space telescope as a planetary science resource, engaged the community in future observations and preparations, and assisted the project to ensure the capabilities of the observatory were suitable for solar system observations. She also led the study team for solar system science for the Roman Space Telescope (formerly WFIRST), is a member of the Origins Space Telescope Science and Technology Definition Team, is working on future instrumentation for SOFIA, Deputy Project Scientist for the Comet Astrobiology Explorer Sample Return (CAESAR) mission concept, and is Project Scientist for Nucleus Evolution and Activity Tour (NEAT) mission concept.

SVCP Astrophysics

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