Advisory Board

Jacob D. Haqq-Misra, Ph.D.

The NewScientist article Mirrors on the Moon could catch alien eyes said

Mounting mirrors on the Moon and using them to signal across space could let ET know we Earthlings are here.
 
Ever since radio broadcasts began we’ve been trumpeting our presence to nearby parts of the galaxy, so far without reply. To improve the chances of being found, Shawn Domagal-Goldman and Jacob Haqq-Misra of Pennsylvania State University in State College reckon we should cover half of the Moon with mirrors.
 
When angled to catch the Sun’s rays, the mirrors would increase the amount of light the Earth-moon system reflects by 20%, they say, more than enough to catch the eye of a vigilant alien astronomer. Domagal-Goldman proposes using a code of prime number flashes — just as aliens used to get in touch in Carl Sagan’s book Contact. This will ensure the flashes aren’t mistaken for natural variations in brightness.

Jacob D. Haqq-Misra, Ph.D. is Postdoctoral Scholar at Penn State University, Rock Ethics Institute; and Research Scientist, Blue Marble Space Institute of Science.
 
Jacob recently completed Planetary Messenger — this novel explores the social, scientific, and spiritual consequences of discovering another planet in the galaxy just like our Earth.
 
His research interests are climate dynamics, paleoclimate, climate change, extrasolar planets, biosignatures, extraterrestrial life, and philosophy of science. He has focused on:
 
Greenhouse Warming of the Archean Earth
 
Geological and biological evidence suggests that the Earth was warm during most of its early history, despite the fainter young Sun. Paleosol data have been used to estimate upper bounds on the atmospheric CO2 concentration in the Late Archean/Paleoproterozoic (2.2–2.8 Ga), suggesting that additional greenhouse gases must have been present. Methanogenic bacteria, which were arguably extant at that time, may have contributed to a high concentration of atmospheric CH4, and previous calculations had indicated that a CH4-CO2-H2O greenhouse could have produced warm Late Archean surface temperatures, while still satisfying the paleosol constraints on pCO2.
 
He has revisited this conclusion and the correction of an error in the methane absorption coefficients, combined with the predicted early onset of climatically cooling organic haze, suggests that the amount of greenhouse warming by methane is more limited and that pCO2 must therefore have been ~0.03 bar, at or above the upper bound of the value obtained from paleosols. Enough warming from methane remains, however, to explain why Earth’s climate cooled and became glacial when atmospheric O2 levels rose in the Paleoproterozoic. His new model also shows that greenhouse warming by higher hydrocarbon gases, especially ethane (C2H6), may have helped to keep the Late Archean Earth warm.
 
3-D Climate Modeling of Dense CO2 Atmospheres: Habitable Zones Around Stars, Early Earth, and Early Mars
 
The limits of the “habitable zone” around a star — the region where a terrestrial planet could sustain surface liquid water — is of particular interest as new extrasolar planets are discovered. Missions such as NASA’s Terrestrial Planet Finder aim to detect Earth-like worlds around other stars, and a constraint on the habitable zone would provide important additional information about the detected planet.
 
Previous calculations of the habitable zone have been limited to one-dimensional radiative-convective models. Although these models are useful in obtaining conservative estimates, they are unable to properly represent important feedback mechanisms. The outer edge of the habitable zone is determined by the formation of CO2 clouds, which raise a planet’s albedo and lower its convective lapse rate, thereby cooling the surface. However, CO2 clouds also create a scattering greenhouse effect that warms the surface.
 
Here he proposes to calculate the outer edge of the habitable zone around main sequence stars using a three-dimensional global climate model. He intends to modify the radiative, convective, and cloud formation algorithms in the GENESIS global climate model to handle a dense CO2 atmosphere. Once developed, this model can also be used to examine the degree to which early Mars could have been kept warm by CO2 clouds. He also proposes to explore the contribution atmospheric CO2 buildup may have had in deglaciating from an ice-covered state that may have occurred in Earth’s history.
 
Jacob authored the Pale Blue Dot III Essay Winner The Power of Our Myth, 3-D Climate Modeling of Dense CO2 Atmospheres: Habitable Zones Around Stars, Early Earth, and Early Mars, and coauthored Piracy as a Preventer of Tropical Cyclones, Comparison of Synthetic Aperture Radar—Derived Wind Speeds with Buoy Wind Speeds along the Mountainous Alaskan Coast, and A Revised, Hazy Methane Greenhouse for the Archaean Earth.
 
Jacob earned a B.S. in Computer Science at the University of Minnesota in 2005, a B.S. in Astrophysics at the University of Minnesota in 2005, his M.S. in Meteorology at Penn State University in 2007, and his Ph.D. in Meteorology & Astrobiology at Penn State University in 2010.
 
Read his blog. Listen to his interview on the Starlight Zone.