Space Water Stories Served at Science Cafe

Deep Impact

Karen MeechIn the perennial search for life beyond our planet, most stargazers and scientists are looking for something far simpler than spaceships or radio signals. Water — that magical combination of hydrogen and oxygen — is considered one of the critical ingredients to supporting alien life.

Just this week, new studies have found possible evidence of water on Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, and Ganymede, the largest moon of Jupiter. This adds to earlier observations hinting at water’s presence on Europa and Callisto.

“Suddenly,” reads a New York Times headline, “It Seems Water is Everywhere in Solar System.”

We’re certainly glad there’s water on Earth. But how did it get here?

That’s the question of the day for Tuesday’s Honolulu Science Cafe. The monthly meetup, open to anyone who enjoys “talking about science with a glass or a fork in their hand,” will feature Dr. Karen Meech from the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Institute for Astronomy.

Water, the wellspring of life on Earth, is one of the most common molecules in space, but no one know how it was delivered to our planet and the other rocky worlds of the inner solar system. Understanding how water reaches habitable worlds is not only important for our solar system, but in understanding whether the myriad of extrasolar planets being discovered could support life.

Meech will share the most common theories of where water came from, based both on historic, recent, and planned space missions. All in a casual, talkstory setting at JJ’s Bistro in Kaimuki.

If you’re into space, Meech is someone worth meeting in person. Inspired by Star Trek at the tender age of 7, she has spent her life working in astronomy. She has served as the president of the International Astronomical Union Commission on Bioastronomy and lead investigator of UH’s NASA Astrobiology Institute team. She even has an asteroid named after her.

Meech was a co-investigator on NASA’s “Deep Impact” mission, launched in 2005 to rendezvous with comet Tempel 1.

“I think the coolest thing about the mission was that we were actually going to perform an experiment on one of those fuzzy patches of light that I had spent my lifetime studying,” Meech said. “Unlike much of astronomy where you don’t get to do an actual experiment ‘on site,’ Deep Impact gave us a unique opportunity to do this, and to do it on a short timescale (compared to outer planet missions).”

For more information on Honolulu Science Cafe events, visit Hi-Sci.org.

Comet Tempel 1 image courtesy NASA.

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