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Astrogeology: December 2010


Arsenic, Astrobiology, NASA, and the Media

Exclusive Interview: Discoverer of Arsenic Bacteria, in the Eye of the Storm, Science Now

"Q: So, NASA approached you about doing a press conference, and you thought that was a good idea? F.W.-S.: I wouldn't say I thought it was a good or bad idea. I'd never been to a press conference, but it made good sense to me that my mom should know what I'd been up to, and I love teaching. So, it made sense to me at that level, in terms of, again, bringing what we did to the public. But we weren't clearly prepared, in terms of understanding how it might be, again, with the new types of media that are really rather amazing, what was exactly going to happen."

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The 2011 Gordon Research Conference on the Origins of Solar Systems will take place at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA 17-22 July 2011. This unique interdisciplinary meeting includes astronomers and astrophysicists interested in star and planet formation, planetary scientists and cosmochemists interested in the early history, structure, and evolution of the Solar System, as well as scientists in related disciplines. By bringing together this mix of expertise the conference attempts to address fundamental questions that are not tractable within the confines of just one discipline. Our goal is to understand whether planetary systems like our own, and the potential for habitability that they represent are the exception or the rule in the Milky Way galaxy.

The focus of the 2011 meeting (the 11th since this series began twenty years ago) will be "Composition of Forming Planets: A Tool to Understand Processes". Topics covered will include: 1) the initial conditions for planet formation in circumstellar disks, including estimates of solar nebula composition from the Genesis mission; 2) the evolution of the physical structure of the gas and dust from which planets form; 3) progress in our theoretical understanding of the major physical processes that control planet formation; 4) the interplay between disk dynamics and disk chemistry in determining the composition of forming planets including new results from the Herschel Space Telescope; 5) meteoritic constraints on the physical and chemical conditions in the solar nebula; 6) the role of giant impacts in the structure and evolution of forming planets; 7) satellites and rings of giant planets as mini-laboratories to study the process of planet formation; 8) current census of extra-solar planets including new results from the Kepler and COROT missions as well as other facilities; 9) the essential chemical conditions for life and whether those are readily obtained through our current understanding of planet formation; and many other topics.

The conference will continue the usual format of invited lectures, extended discussion, and poster sessions. The meeting provides an excellent opportunity for young researchers to present their latest research results and to participate in the dynamic informal conversations that are typical of a Gordon Conference. We encourage young scientists, including graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, to attend. Special efforts will be made to promote interactions between invited speakers and junior participants and we expect to provide some financial support to facilitate the latter's participation.

For more information please visit the Gordon Research Conference website: http://www.grc.org/ [Source: NAI Newsletter]