NAI

  1. Exomoons Could Be Abundant Sources of Habitability


    Europa is one of the moons in our solar system that could host life. What about beyond the solar system? Credit: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk Europa is one of the moons in our solar system that could host life. What about beyond the solar system? Credit: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk

    With about 4,000 planet candidates from the Kepler Space Telescope data to analyze so far, astronomers are busy trying to figure out questions about habitability. Look at our own solar system, however, and there’s a big gap in the information we need. Most of the planets have moons, so surely at least some of what Kepler finds would have them as well. Tracking down these tiny worlds, however, is a challenge.

    A new ...

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  1. Ariel Anbar Named President of Biogeosciences Leadership at AGU



    Ariel Anbar, Principal Investigator (PI) in the Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology (Exo/Evo) element of the NASA Astrobiology Program, has been named President-Elect of the Biogeosciences Leadership at the American Geophysical Union for the 2015-2016 Term.

    Anbar is a Professor in Arizona State University’s (ASU) School of Earth and Space Exploration. Earlier this year, he was also selected as the first Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor at ASU.

    In addition to his work with Exo/Evo, Anbar is also a Co-Investigator for the new NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) team at the University of California: Riverside.

    The 2014 AGU Fall ...

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  1. Hubble Maps Temperature and Water Vapor on an Exoplanet


    Temperature map of the "hot Jupiter" class exoplanet WASP 43b. This is a temperature map of the "hot Jupiter" class exoplanet WASP 43b. The white-colored region on the daytime side is 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit. The nighttime side temperatures drop to under 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Image Credit: NASA/ESA

    A team of scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made the most detailed global map yet of the glow from a turbulent planet outside our solar system, revealing its secrets of air temperatures and water vapor.

    Hubble observations show the exoplanet, called WASP-43b, is no place to call home. It is a world of extremes, where seething winds ...

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  1. Sean Solomon to Receive National Medal of Science


    Sean Solomon, PI for NASA's MESSENGER mission, has been selected to receive the National Medal of Science. Credit: NASA Sean Solomon, PI for NASA's MESSENGER mission, has been selected to receive the National Medal of Science. Credit: NASA

    Sean Solomon, former principal investigator for the NASA Astrobiology Institute team at the Carnegie Institution, has been selected to receive the National Medal of Science.

    Solomon is now the Director of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and serves as principal investigator for NASA’s MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) mission. MESSENGER is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury and is currently completing a second extended mission at the Solar System’s inner-most planet. Additional NASA missions ...

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  1. NAI’s New Teams: A Preview of the Research


    Please join us in welcoming the new members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), winners of the CAN7 competition: the SETI Institute in Mountain View, CA; NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA; the University of California, Riverside; NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA; NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD; the University of Montana, Missoula; and the University of Colorado, Boulder.

    Each interdisciplinary team will bring unique capabilities and expertise to NASA’s Astrobiology Program, and the collaborative structure of the NAI will provide for productive interactions not only across these teams, but ...

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  1. NASA Selects New Science Teams for Astrobiology Research


    NASA has awarded five-year grants totaling almost $50 million to seven research teams nationwide to study the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.

    “With the Curiosity rover characterizing the potential habitability of Mars, the Kepler mission discovering new planets outside our solar system, and Mars 2020 on the horizon, these research teams will provide the critical interdisciplinary expertise to help interpret data from these missions and future astrobiology-focused missions, “ said Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

    Average funding for each team will be approximately $8 million. The interdisciplinary teams will become members ...

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  1. Evolution in Toxic Mercury Resistance


    The researchers dig holes in the snowpack over sea ice to establish vertical snow profiles used for sampling of the snow at different depths. Credit: Niels Kroer The researchers dig holes in the snowpack over sea ice to establish vertical snow profiles used for sampling of the snow at different depths. Credit: Niels Kroer

    Scientists have traced the evolutionary branches of Arctic bacterial resistance to toxic mercury — an adaptation that appears to have an ancient lineage. Up to 31 percent of bacteria retrieved during an Arctic expedition and grown in lab cultures contain the mercuric reductase gene(merA), a genetic sequence that encodes an enzyme that is capable of breaking down toxic mercury into a more harmless chemical form.

    The study, detailed in the journal FEMS Microbiology ...

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  1. History, Discovery, and Analogy


    In a new video interview with C-SPAN’s American History TV, Kluge Center astrobiology chair Steven Dick explains how history, discovery, and analogy may be useful frameworks for approaching the problem of what societal reactions may be to the discovery of life beyond Earth.

    Dick has spent the past year at the Library of Congress as the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, researching a new book on preparing for discovery. Tracing incidents of discoveries and cultural contacts in various moments throughout human history, Dick says these past incidents may illuminate what contemporary reactions could be ...

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  1. Life’s Wrinkles in the Sand


    Wrinkle structures reproduced in the laboratory​. by moving microbial aggregates on a bed of loose fine sand. The total width of the image is 30 cm. Credit: Mariotti et al. 2014 Wrinkle structures reproduced in the laboratory​. by moving microbial aggregates on a bed of loose fine sand. The total width of the image is 30 cm. Credit: Mariotti et al. 2014

    A new study shows how wrinkle structures can form on a bed of sand when waves and microorganisms are present. Wrinkle structures on sandy bed surfaces are rare on Earth today, but were more common in ancient sedimentary environments. These ancient sediments often have trace fossils and imprints of early animals, and appear in the geological record after some of the largest mass extinctions on Earth.

    Some scientists have ...

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  1. Scientists “Resurrect” Ancient Proteins to Learn About Primordial Life


    The young Earth differed markedly from today’s world. Credit: NASA The young Earth differed markedly from today’s world. Credit: NASA

    Geological evidence tells us that ancient Earth probably looked and felt very different from the planet we all recognize today. Billions of years ago, our world was a comparatively harsh place.

    Thanks to advances in a niche field called paleobiochemistry, researchers in the last decade have started to “resurrect” ancient proteins. Studying these proteins’ properties is offering us glimpses of what life was like in bygone epochs. A new study published in the journal Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics explores how such 'resurrection studies’ can provide evidence to support ...

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  1. India’s Mars Orbiter Mission


    Primary deployment test of MOM's three-fold solar panel prior to launch. Credit: ISRO Primary deployment test of MOM's three-fold solar panel prior to launch. Credit: ISRO

    India has become the fourth nation to successfully deliver a spacecraft to Mars. The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is the country’s first interplanetary mission and will collect data about martian surface features, morphology and mineralogy. The spacecraft will also search for signs of methane gas in the atmosphere.

    A statement from Lisa May, program executive for the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD):

    “NASA’s Mars Exploration Program is very excited to have new neighbors at Mars ...

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  1. Our Ocean’s Cosmic Origin


    An illustration of water in our Solar System through time from before the Sun’s birth through the creation of the planets. Credit: Bill Saxton, NSF/AUI/NRAO An illustration of water in our Solar System through time from before the Sun’s birth through the creation of the planets. Credit: Bill Saxton, NSF/AUI/NRAO

    A new study published in Science looks beyond the question of whether Earth’s oceans can be traced to comets or other objects from space, and instead asks the question: where did the water in comets come from?‬ The answer: some of it, maybe even a majority, is interstellar, and either survived the formation of our Sun and planetary disk or migrated here at a later time.‬ The findings could have important ...

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  1. Light Scattering on Dust Holds Clues to Habitability


    A light wave can be roughly imagined as a single line that wiggles up and down. If circular polarization occurs, this line rotates as the wave moves. Circular polarization of light when it interacts w A light wave can be roughly imagined as a single line that wiggles up and down. If circular polarization occurs, this line rotates as the wave moves. Circular polarization of light when it interacts with dust might help identify molecules relevant to the origins of life. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    Dust particles can be found everywhere in space, but what can dust tell us about life’s potential in the Universe? By modeling how light scatters when it interacts with dust particles, researchers supported by the Exobiology & Evolutionary Biology are looking at ways of determining whether or ...

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  1. MAVEN Enters Orbit at Mars


    Members of the mission team at the Lockheed Martin Mission Support Area in Littleton, Colorado, celebrate after successfully inserting NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft Members of the mission team at the Lockheed Martin Mission Support Area in Littleton, Colorado, celebrate after successfully inserting NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft into orbit around Mars at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

    NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered Mars’ orbit at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere as never done before. MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars.

    Source: [NASA]

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  1. How Did Life on Earth Begin?


    This week’s Science Nation video features research at the Center for Chemical Evolution (CCE), headquartered at Georgia Tech. Nicholas Hud and a team from the CCE are working to understand the origins of life on Earth by studying how chain-like chemicals called polymers first came together to form RNA and DNA.

    The CCE is co-funded by the NASA Astrobiology program and the National Science Foundation (NSF Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCI) program.

    Source: [NSF]

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