An artist's rendering of a Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) molecule. Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation
Astrobiologists have shown that the formation of RNA from prebiotic reactions may not be as problematic as scientists once thought.
One hypotheses for the origin of life on Earth includes a period known as the 'RNA World.’ In this proposed scenario, ribonucleic acid (RNA) formed from non-biological reactions, and then became incorporated into life’s first cells.
The study presents a proof-of-concept system that could overcome previously sited challenges to the RNA World hypothesis, and was published in the Journal of the American ...Today / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Current apparatus being used for freeze-up experiments. Credit: Johnson et al. 2014
Scientists have confirmed the existence of a process that causes the electrolysis of water, and which has the potential to drive the production of life in 'Snowball Earth’ scenarios and on icy satellites such as Europa and Enceladus.
The process, known as the Workman-Reynolds Effect (WRE), occurs when a dilute aqueous solution of salt rapidly freezes, causing ions in the solution to assume a negative or positive charge at the interface between ice and water.
Two images from Philae's Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer (CIVA) confirm that the lander is on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. One of the lader's feet can be seen in the foreground. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA
The European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully performed the first soft landing on a comet. The Rosetta mission delivered the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12, 2014. The first two images from the lander have now confirmed that the craft is safely positioned on the comet.
For more on the Rosetta mission, visit: http://www.esa ...November 13, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
There may be a trillion planets in our galaxy, the Milky Way, one-fifth of which may be Earth-like. Image Credit: Serge Brunier
For two days in September, a group of scientists, historians, philosophers and theologians from around the world explored how we might prepare for the inevitable discovery of life — microbial or intelligent — elsewhere in the Universe. The event was sponsored by the NASA Astrobiology Program and the Library of Congress.
If microbial life can survive in Earth’s Atacama Desert (right), one of the driest places on the planet, would it have any chance on Mars (left)? From a perspective of the availability of water for biological activity, or “water activity,” as reviewed in a new study, the answer is “yes.” Credit: NASA/JPL (left); Henry Bortman (right)
Life as we know it requires water for the complex chemistry that enables growth and reproduction. But how much water at a minimum does life need? A recent study in the journal Environmental Microbiology explains that it is not ...
Chris Reinhard and Noah Planavsky conduct research for the study. Credit: Yale University
New research could explain why it took around a billion years for animal species to flourish on Earth after oxygen levels in the atmosphere began to increase.
Animal life on Earth boomed around 800 million years ago at the end of the Proterozoic period, but scientists have long believed that there was sufficient oxygen in the atmosphere for this increase in animal diversity to occur much earlier. However, new findings published in the journal Science show that oxygen levels were only 0.1% of those we see ...October 30, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Katrina J. Edwards, March 15, 1968 - October 26, 2014
The astrobiology community deeply mourns the passing of Katrina Edwards, a geomicrobiologist and very bright light in many of our lives. Please see the blog set up by her family for more information on her life and work, and to contribute remembrances of Katrina.
Katrina Jane Edwards passed away peacefully on October 26, 2014, after a long illness. She was born March 15, 1968, in Columbus, Oh., the third of five children raised by Timothy and Sandra Edwards and big sister Laura Edwards. Katrina completed her secondary education at Columbus Alternative ...October 29, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Illustration of the mechanism and conceptual research targets for SHERLOC. SHERLOC will provide fine-scale imaging and use an ultraviolet laser to determine fine-scale mineralogy and detect organic compounds. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
How habitable was Mars in the past? Since the Curiosity rover touched down on Mars in August 2012, it has helped answer a few of these questions in the area surrounding its equatorial landing site of Gale Crater.
Mars 2020, as it’s currently called, will have improved instruments over Curiosity. The new rover is heavily based on the Curiosity design, and as with its predecessor it will ...
High in the atmosphere of Titan, large patches of two trace gases glow near the north pole, on the dusk side of the moon, and near the south pole, on the dawn side. Brighter colors indicate stronger signals from the two gases, HNC (left) and HC3N (right); red hues indicate less pronounced signals. Image Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF
New maps of Saturn’s moon Titan reveal large patches of trace gases shining brightly near the north and south poles. These regions are curiously shifted off the poles, to the east or west, so that dawn is breaking over the southern ...October 23, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...
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.October 17, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...October 14, 2014 / Written by: Daniella Scalice
Sean Solomon, PI for NASA's MESSENGER mission, has been selected to receive the National Medal of Science. Credit: NASA
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 ...October 13, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...October 7, 2014 / Written by: Daniella Scalice
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 ...October 6, 2014 / Posted by: Shige Abe
- November 25 - Proposal Deadline for D.11 NuSTAR Guest Observer Cycle 1
- December 1 - Application Deadline for Ph.D. Opportunities in Molecular Geomicrobiology at Michigan State University
- December 1 - Application Deadline for Postdoctoral Fellowship Opportunities in Planetary/Exoplanet Science University of Toronto Centre for Planetary Sciences
- December 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Second Workshop on Experimental Laboratory Astrophysics
- December 15 - AGU Fall Meeting
- January 3 - Exoplanet Exploration Program Analysis Group (ExoPAG) Meeting
- January 5 - Application Deadline for Tenure-track Assistant Professor Opportunity in Geobiology & Sedimentary Geology at UW
- January 5 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Comparative Tectonics and Geodynamics of Venus, Earth, and Rocky Exoplanets