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
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 ...
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 ...October 1, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
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 ...September 30, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...
- 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
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- January 6 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference
- January 6 - 12th Meeting of NASA Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG)
- January 7 - Abstract Submission Deadline for European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2015
- January 9 - Application Deadline for 2015 LPI Summer Intern Program in Planetary Science
- January 13 - Small, Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) Step-1 proposals are Due
- January 15 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Star and Planet Formation in the Southwest
- January 22 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Workshop on Venus Science Priorities for Laboratory Measurements and Instrument Definition
- January 31 - Proposal Deadline for 2014 NASA EONS Solicitation New Appendix
- January 31 - Application Deadline for the 2015-16 Academic Year in Residence Opportunity with the Princeton Center of Theological Inquiry (CTI) on the Social Implications of Astrobiology
- February 2 - Application Deadline for NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF) Program Opportunity