NAI

  1. Not a Planet After All


    View of the possible inner planets of the Gliese 581 system along with their star, a red dwarf. Credit: Lynette Cook View of the possible inner planets of the Gliese 581 system along with their star, a red dwarf. Credit: Lynette Cook

    What astronomers thought were a pair of potentially life-friendly alien worlds are illusions, apparitions conjured up by a star’s intense magnetic activity, a new NAI-funded study suggests.

    These new findings could one day not only help astronomers dispel more such illusory exoplanets, but discover worlds that would otherwise remain hidden, scientists added. A new video about the possible cosmic illusions also details the finding.

    Astronomers have confirmed the existence of more than 1,700 planets beyond the solar ...

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  1. Under the Bright Lights of an Aging Sun


    Venus can be seen as a black dot eclipsing the Sun in this image from 2012. Venus orbits too close to the Sun to the planet to be habitable for life as we know it. Venus experiences a runaway greenhou Venus can be seen as a black dot eclipsing the Sun in this image from 2012. Venus orbits too close to the Sun to the planet to be habitable for life as we know it. Venus experiences a runaway greenhouse and the average surface temperatures are thought to be around 864ºF. Image Credit: NASA/SDO & the AIA, EVE, and HMI teams; Digital Composition: Peter L. Dove

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    Astrobiologists supported by the Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology element of the Astrobiology Program have shed new light on the future habitability of Earth. The tools they are using could also tell us about habitability around distant stars ...

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  1. Liquid Water From Ice and Salt on Mars


    Erik Fischer, a doctoral student in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences at the University of Michigan, sets up a Mars Atmospheric Chamber in the Space Research Building on June 1 Erik Fischer, a doctoral student in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences at the University of Michigan, sets up a Mars Atmospheric Chamber in the Space Research Building on June 18, 2014. The chamber simulates the atmospheric conditions of Mars in hopes of producing water through the interaction of salt with the atmospheric conditions simulated by the chamber. The resulting research allows Astrobiologists to postulate about the potential of life on Mars. Credit: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    Astrobiologists supported by the Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology element of the NASA Astrobiology Program have discovered that a salt on Mars could cause liquid water to form when it comes into contact with water ice. The study was inspired by images from NASA’s Phoenix mission, which showed what appeared to be droplets of liquid water on a leg of the lander.

    Researchers determined that liquid water could be stable on Mars if it was very salty – a possibility that arose when calcium perchlorate was identified on the martian surface by missions including Phoenix and the Curiosity ...

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  1. The Ribosome: A Record of Evolution


    In a new study, scientists compared three-dimensional structures of ribosomes from a variety of species, showing where new structures were added to the ribosomal surface without altering the pre-exist In a new study, scientists compared three-dimensional structures of ribosomes from a variety of species, showing where new structures were added to the ribosomal surface without altering the pre-existing ribosomal core, which originated over 3 billion years ago before the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) of life. Credit: Loren Williams/Georgia Institute of Technology.

    The evolution of the ribosome, a large molecular structure found in the cells of all species, has been revealed in unprecedented detail in a new study published this week in PNAS.

    In a new study co-funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, scientists compared three-dimensional structures of ...

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  1. Anbar Selected as HHMI Professor at ASU


    Please join us in congratulating NAI PI Ariel Anbar on his selection as Arizona State University’s first Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. This distinguished honor recognizes Anbar’s pioneering research and teaching.

    He is one of 15 professors from 13 universities whose appointments were announced by the Maryland-based biomedical research institute on June 30. The appointment includes a five-year, $1 million grant to support Anbar’s research and educational activities.

    Since the inception of the institute’s professor program in 2002, and including the new group of 2014 professors, only 55 scientists have been appointed Howard Hughes Medical Institute ...

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  1. New Astrobiology Online Course Starts July 14th


    The Coursera Massively Open On-Line Course (MOOC), Emergence of Life, is built upon the pioneering work of Carl Woese, on which the modern synthesis of the Tree of Life has been established.

    No prior knowledge is required, just a willingness to learn and a desire to delve into Earth’s 4-billion-year history of Life. The course will traverse from the ancient primordial soup into the expansive and diverse Tree of Life, and how these understandings might point us towards the existence of Life elsewhere in the universe.

    The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the NASA ...

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  1. Evolution in the Lab


    The variability of natural systems makes it difficult to understand how organisms’ genes influence the way they look and behave, and how communities of interacting organisms arise. Using laboratory experimental evolution, this variation can be controlled.

    A NASA Astrobiology Program-funded team based at the University of Montana previously showed that a single population of bacteria that was cultured in the presence of a single limiting resource evolved into a stable, three-membered community, wherein one member’s waste products are used by the others as a source of food.

    In a new study, the team found that the two new members ...

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  1. What an Alaskan Lake and a Mexican Cave Have in Common


    Left: Astrobiologist Kevin Hand prepares to deploy a rover beneath the ice of Alaska's Sukok Lake; Right: Asttrobiologist Penny Boston captures a drop of bio­film from the Cueva de Villa Luz ("cave of Left: Astrobiologist Kevin Hand prepares to deploy a rover beneath the ice of Alaska's Sukok Lake; Right: Asttrobiologist Penny Boston captures a drop of bio­film from the Cueva de Villa Luz ("cave of the lighted house") in Mexico.

    An electronic signal travels from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, to a robotic rover clinging to the underside of foot-thick ice on an Alaskan lake. The rover’s spotlight begins to glow. “It worked!” exclaims John Leichty, a young JPL engineer huddled in a tent on the lake ice nearby. It may not sound like a technological ...

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  1. Hydrothermal Vents Could Explain Chemical Precursors to Life


    The Bain des Japonais Spring, an intertidal hydrothermal vent on Prony Bay. Note shimmering where fluids are mixing with seawater. Credit: Roy Price The Bain des Japonais Spring, an intertidal hydrothermal vent on Prony Bay. Note shimmering where fluids are mixing with seawater. Credit: Roy Price

    Roy Price first heard about the hydrothermal vents in New Caledonia’s Bay of Prony a decade ago. Being a scuba diver and a geologist, he was fascinated by the pictures of a 38-meter-high calcite “chimney” that had precipitated out of the highly-alkaline vent fluid.

    His attraction to this South Pacific site intensified over the years, as it was later revealed that the geochemistry of the hydrothermal fluids discharging in the Bay of Prony resemble that of ...

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  1. New Astrobiology Online Course in Spanish


    The Spanish Network of Planetology and Astrobiology (REDESPA) has just opened registration for a new online course in Spanish called Planetology and Astrobiology.

    This multidisciplinary course will cover the diversity of astrobiological subjects from different disciplines (geology, chemistry, physics, astrophysics, biology and science communication/networks). At this first stage, the course will be given in Spanish and It covers around 100 teaching hours, comprising three modules and 18 Thematic Units.

    Source: [REDSPA]

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  1. Sugars of the Interstellar Medium…in the Lab


    Sugars of extraterrestrial origin have been observed in the interstellar medium (ISM), in at least one comet spectrum, and in several meteorites that have been recovered from the surface of the Earth. The origins of the sugars within the meteorites have been debated.

    To explore the possibility that sugars could be generated during shock events, a new study funded by the NASA Astrobiology Program is the first set of laboratory impact experiments wherein glycolaldehyde, found in the ISM, as well as glycolaldehyde mixed with montmorillonite clay, have been subjected to reverberated shocks.

    New biologically-relevant molecules, including threose, erythrose and ethylene ...

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  1. Revisiting the Habitable Zone


    An artist's imagined view from planet Kepler-10b (NASA/Kepler Mission/Dana Berry) An artist's imagined view from planet Kepler-10b (NASA/Kepler Mission/Dana Berry)

    This new article in The Atlantic profiles NAI’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory team, based at the University of Washington, Seattle and led by PI Vikki Meadows. At a recent conference hosted there called “Revisiting the Habitable Zone,” a small interdisciplinary and international group of scientists discussed the question, “What makes a planet habitable?” aka, “What makes a planet’s surface suitable for water?”

    Source: [The Atlantic]

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  1. Early Moon Baked in Earthshine


    Left: Composite image of the lunar nearside showing the presence of dark areas of maria. Right: Composite image of the lunar farside showing the absence of dark areas. Image Credit: NASA Left: Composite image of the lunar nearside showing the presence of dark areas of maria. Right: Composite image of the lunar farside showing the absence of dark areas. Image Credit: NASA

    Astrobiologists have solved a 55-year-old Moon mystery known as the Lunar Farside Highlands Problem.

    When looking at the Moon from Earth, one of the first things you notice are the large, dark areas of basalt seas known as maria. These dark spots are what give the Moon it’s familiar 'face.’ For centuries this was the only view of the Moon that humankind knew because the nearside always faces ...

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  1. International FameLab Finals


    Watch Lyl Tomlinson in the International FameLab Final live on June 3rd at 3:30pm EDT!

    Lyl Tomlinson was the winner of the FameLab USA National Competition, an event sponsored by the NASA Astrobiology Program. Lyl is now representing the United States in the FameLab International Final at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the United Kingdom. He will be competing against winners from 23 other countries.

    Lyl will compete in the first semifinal on June 3rd. A second semifinal will be held on June 4th. The winners of the semifinals will then participate in the final competition on Thursday, June ...

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  1. Supporting Early Career Astrobiologists


    Please join us in welcoming a new crop of early career astrobiologists into two of the many community-based programs supported by NASA Astrobiology: the 2014 International Summer School in Astrobiology and the NASA Astrobiology Early Career Collaboration Award.

    This year’s theme for the 2014 International Summer School in Astrobiology is “Habitable Environments in the Universe.” The school will provide an interdisciplinary examination of the nature and evaluation of habitability, an environment’s ability to support life. The Astrobiology Early Career Collaboration Award offers research-related travel support for undergraduate, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior scientists.

    2014 Selections for the ...

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