National Academies Press: OpenBook

An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe (2019)

Chapter: Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
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E

Glossary and Acronyms

1-D one-dimensional
3-D three-dimensional
ABL Automated Biological Laboratory
accretion (astronomical) the growth of a massive object by gravitationally attracting more matter, typically gaseous matter, in an orbiting accretion disk, causing the object to grow larger, hotter, and more luminous.
accretion (meteorological) the process of accumulation of frozen water as precipitation over time as it descends through the atmosphere, the basis of cloud formation
adaptive optics a technology used to improve the performance of optical systems by reducing the effect of incoming wavefront distortions by deforming a mirror in order to compensate for the distortion
aeolian processes abrasion, erosion, transportation, and deposition by wind
AI artificial intelligence
ALH Allan Hills
ALMA Atacama Large Millimeter Array
APF Automated Planet Finder
ARC Ames Research Center
Archean the second geologic eon on Earth, occuring after the Hadean and lasting from 4 billion to 2.5 billion years ago
ARIEL Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey
ASTERIA Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics
AU Astronomical unit, one Earth-Sun distance
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
Bayesian a statistical framework in which Bayes’ theorem is used to update the probability for a hypothesis as more evidence or information becomes available, e.g., the probability of X, given the presence of Y
biosignature a detectable sign, e.g., chemical or morphological, that supports the likelihood of the presence of life
biosphere the layer of a planet where life exists; the sum total of a planet’s ecological systems
carbonaceous chondrites a rare and primitive type of meteorites. In addition to carbon, silicates, oxides, and sulfides, most contain water or minerals that have been altered in the presence of water and some contain organic compounds
cementation the process in which ions carried in groundwater chemically precipitate to form new crystalline minerals between sedimentary grains, thereby binding the grains together
CERN European Organization for Nuclear Research
chemoautotroph an organism, typically bacteria or archaea, that is able to derive energy from chemical reactions of inorganic molecules
CHNOPS carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sulfur
chromatography the collective term for a set of laboratory techniques for the separation of mixtures. For example, in gas chromatography, the sample mixture is vaporized, injected into a stream of carrier gas, and separated into its component compounds
COSPAR Committee on Space Research
Cretaceous the geological period ranging from 145-72 Mya, a subset of the Mesozoic era, ending with the the extinction of the non-Avian dinosaurs
cryovolcano colloquially known as an ice volcano, a geologic feature which erupts volatiles such as water, ammonia, or methane instead of molten rock
diagenesis the change of sedimentary rock during and after rock formation at temperatures and pressures less than what is required for the formation of metamorphic rocks but excludes surface alteration (weathering).
diapirism a type of geologic intrusion in which a more mobile and ductily deformable material is forced into brittle overlying rocks
diurnal cycle any pattern that recurs every 24 hours
DNA deoxyribonucleic acid; the genetic biopolymer of most terran organisms
DRD Dual Reciprocating Drilling
dynamic habitability the relationship between the likelihood of the presence of life, the age of the stellar system and the age of the planet. Planets may only be habitable during certain stages of their lifetime. Also known as punctuated habitability
E-ELT European Extremely Large Telescope
ELT Extremely Large Telescope
enantiomer one of an isometric pair of crystalline forms or chemical compounds whose molecules are a nonsuperimposable mirror image of the other, like right and left hands
ESA European Space Agency
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
ESI Earth Similarity Index
ESPRESSO Echelle Spectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations
eutectic a mixture of chemical compounds or elements that have a single chemical composition that solidifies at a lower temperature than any other composition made up of the same ingredients.
exoring a ring system around an exoplanet
fabrics the spatial and geometric configuration of all the elements that make up a rock
FAST Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope
FDL Frontier Development Lab
felsic igneous rocks enriched in lighter elements (e.g., silicon, oxygen, aluminum, sodium, and potassium) that form feldspar and quartz
FNIH Foundation for the National Institutes of Health
fractionation (geochemical) separation of a complex mixture in successive stages into fractions, each of which is enriched in one of the components of the mixture
fractionation (isotopic) the enrichment of one isotope, relative to another isotope, changing their ratios; can occur during a phase transition
Ga Gigayear, one billion years
GCM general circulation model
GCMS gas chromatography-mass spectrometry
geodynamics a subfield of geophysics dealing with forces, torques, and motions of Earth. It applies chemistry and mathematics to the understanding of how mantle convection leads to plate tectonics and other geologic phenomena
geosphere the solid layers of a planet, including its core
Gibbs free energy a measure of the maximum available work that can be derived from any system under conditions of constant temperature and pressure
GMT Giant Magellan Telescope
GOE Great Oxidation Event
GPR ground-penetrating radar
GPS global positioning system
GSMT giant segmented mirror telescope
HabEx Habitable Exoplanet Observatory
Hadean the first geologic eon on Earth, lasting from the planet’s formation 4.540 billion years ago to 4 billion years ago
halophile an organism that thrives in salty environments
HITE habitability index for transiting exoplanets
homologation any chemical reaction that converts the reactant into the next member of the homologous series. A homologous series is a group of compounds that differ by a constant unit, generally a CH2 group.
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
HST Hubble Space Telescope
hydrogenation to treat with hydrogen; a chemical reaction between molecular hydrogen and another compound or element
ICSU International Council for Science
in situ Latin for “in place,” referring to an analysis where the phenomenon of study occurred, in contrast to a remote or a sample return analysis
informational heteropolymer A polymer, containing more than one type of subunit, capable of encoding genetic information.
InSight Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport
irradiance See “Radiation flux;” also see “Spectral or Stellar Irradiance
ITER International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor
JAXA Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
jovian pertaining to the planet Jupiter, or similar in size to a gas giant
JUICE Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer
JWST James Webb Space Telescope
Ka one thousand years
KPF Keck Planet Finder
LC-MS/MS liquid-chromatography tandem mass spectrometry
LDMS laser desorption-mass spectrometry
LHS Luyten Half-Second catalog
LIBS laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy
lithology the study of rocks’ physical characteristics and formation
lithosphere the outermost shell of a rocky planet; on Earth, the lithosphere is the crust and the relatively elastic portion of the upper mantle
LUVOIR Large UV/Optical/IR Surveyor
Ma one million years
machine learning a technique used in artificial intelligence computer science, in which programs are statistically trained on known data and gain the ability to correctly analyze new data
main sequence the stage of stellar evolution in which a star spends the majority of its lifetime, characterized by gradually increasing temperature until it becomes a red giant
MALDI-TOF matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight
MarCO Mars Cube One
MEPAG Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group
metabolism a set of chemical reactions in a cell by which food is built up (anabolism) into living protoplasm and by which protoplasm is broken down (catabolism) into simpler compounds with the exchange of energy; needed by life to maintain structure and grow
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
ML machine learning
MOMA Mars Organic Molecular Analyzer
monomer a subunit of a polymer, when bonded to other identical subunits
Monte Carlo methods a computational algorithm that uses repeated random sampling to reach deterministic results
motility the ability of an organism to move independently
MSR Mars Sample Return
NAI NASA Astrobiology Institute
NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NASEM National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
neural network a type of machine learning characterized by the presence of interconnected adjustable nodes, each which take an input and deterministically produce an output. The programmer is not necessarily able to interpret the intermediate “hidden layer” logics used by the program, as only its outputs are measurable
NExSS Nexus for Exoplanet System Science
ngVLA Next Generation Very Large Array
NIH National Institutes of Health
nitrile an organic compound containing a cyanide group bound to an alkyl group
NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Noachian a span in Martian geologic history approximately 4100 to 3700 Mya characterized by heavy asteroid bombardment and possibly abundant liquid water
NOAO National Optical Astronomy Observatory
NRAO National Radio Astronomy Observatory
NRC National Research Council
NSF National Science Foundation
nucleobase the heterocycles (i.e., ring structures made of two elements) guanine, cytosine, adenine, and thymine that form the base pairs between the two polymers of a DNA double helix
occultation an event that occurs when one object is hidden by another object that passes between it and the observer; contrast with a transit, when a smaller object passes in front of a larger one
one-lid planet a type of tectonics thought to exist on Mars, in which a single stagnant crust sits atop the mantle, rather than the active plates on modern Earth
OPAG Outer Planets Assessment Group
OPP Office of Planetary Protection
OSIRIS-REx Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer
OST Origins Space Telescope
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
PCR polymerase chain reaction
photolysis the decomposition of a chemical substance into simpler units as a result of the action of light
photometry the measurement of the brightness or intensity of light, as perceived by the human eye
phyllosilicates a family of minerals featuring parallel sheets of silicate; examples include clays, mica, and serpentine
piezophile an organism adapted to living in high-pressure environments, such as hydrothermal vents
polymerize of molecules, combine to form large chains and networks
Proterozoic the third geologic eon on Earth, occuring after the Archean and lasting from approximately 2.4 billion to 0.5 billion years ago. It was the last eon within the Precambrian supereon
pseudo fossil inorganic objects, markings, or impressions that might be mistaken for a fossil
radiation flux the flow of radiant energy per unit time onto unit area (typically measured in watts per square meter)
radiolysis the breakdown of molecules as a result of exposure to ionizing radiation
Raman spectroscopy a technique for determining the composition of a material by measuring the change in energy of laser light scattered off the sample
rheology the branch of physics that deals with the deformation and flow of matter, especially the non-Newtonian flow of liquids and the plastic flow of solids
RNA ribonucleic acid
ROC receiver-operator characteristic
RSL recurring slope lineae
saltation from Latin saltus “jump,” a type of particle transport occurring when loose materials are removed from a bed and carried by a fluid
scarp a steep slope that occurs from erosion or faulting, leaving two relatively level areas of differing elevations
Schreibersite a iron nickel phosphide mineral with an (Fe, Ni)3P repeating unit. It is found in metallic meteorites and in only one-known location on Earth.
seep a place where water, usually groundwater, reaches the Earth’s surface from an underground aquifer.
serpentinization a metamorphic process in which ultrabasic rocks react with water to create a variety of hydrous, magnesium-iron phyllosilicate minerals known collectively as serpentine; the process is endothermic and results in the liberation of hydrogen, methane, and hydrogen sulfide
SETI Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
SPARCS Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat
spectral irradiance or stellar irradiance the flux of radiant energy per unit area per unit frequency or unit wavelength (typically measured in watts per square meter per hertz or watts per cublic meter, respectively)
SSB Space Studies Board
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
starlight suppression an astronomical technique which blocks the light from a star in order to see the much less luminous exoplanets orbiting it, related to the use of coronagraphs and starshades
stellar type a classification of a star based on characteristics such as temperature, luminosity, composition, and size; ranges from the rare type O, the largest and hottest, to the common type M, far smaller
stromatolites layered growth structures formed by the trapping, binding, and cementation of sedimentary grains by microorganisms, especially cyanobacteria; stromatolites provide records of life on Earth more than 3.5 billion years ago
synchrotron radiation the electromagnetic radiation emitted when charged particles are accelerated radially; usable as a source for X-ray spectroscopy
taphonomic the branch of paleontology that deals with the processes of fossilization
technosignature a detectable sign of technologically advanced life
TESS Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite
TGO Trace Gas Orbiter
TMT Thirty Meter Telescope
TRAPPIST Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope
uniformitarianism the foundational theory that changes in Earth’s crust throughout geological history have resulted from the same continuous and uniform processes
USB universal serial bus
UV ultraviolet
VLT Very Large Telescope
WFIRST Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope
WIYN Wisconsin-Indiana-Yale-NOAO
XUV X-ray ultraviolet
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
Page 171
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
Page 173
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
Page 174
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
Page 175
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Glossary and Acronyms." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
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Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. It is an inherently interdisciplinary field that encompasses astronomy, biology, geology, heliophysics, and planetary science, including complementary laboratory activities and field studies conducted in a wide range of terrestrial environments. Combining inherent scientific interest and public appeal, the search for life in the solar system and beyond provides a scientific rationale for many current and future activities carried out by the National Aeronautics and Science Administration (NASA) and other national and international agencies and organizations.

Requested by NASA, this study offers a science strategy for astrobiology that outlines key scientific questions, identifies the most promising research in the field, and indicates the extent to which the mission priorities in existing decadal surveys address the search for life’s origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe. This report makes recommendations for advancing the research, obtaining the measurements, and realizing NASA’s goal to search for signs of life in the universe.

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