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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, June 30, 2003

UH to get $5 million to study life in universe

Advertiser Staff

NASA is awarding the University of Hawai'i $5 million over the next five years to study life in the universe.

The university is one of six newly selected Astrobiology Institute Lead Teams. The UH team will be led by Institute for Astronomy researcher Karen Meech.

Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe. UH scientists will be involved in research programs focusing on water's role in providing habitat and chemical reactions to support life, according to a news release.

Telescopes on Mauna Kea will be used to make observations of the distribution of water in interstellar gas clouds and comets and in disks around young stars, the release said.

Chemistry department researchers will conduct experiments to explain how water molecules can form in the interstellar environment, while members of the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences & Technology will investigate the role played by water in forming habitats for life in our solar system and on planets around other stars.

Earth-based studies will examine the role played by water in forming rocks and minerals. The UH team also will explore aquatic habitats for life in extreme environments in and around the Hawaiian Islands and will develop instruments that may one day be used to search for life elsewhere in the solar system.

The NASA Astrobiology Institute is an international research consortium with central offices at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.