This is an artistic illustration of the gas giant planet HD 209458b (unofficially named Osiris) located 150 light-years away in the constellation Pegasus. This is a "hot Jupiter" class planet.
Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have gone looking for water vapor in the atmospheres of three planets orbiting stars similar to the Sun — and have come up nearly dry.
The three planets, HD 189733b, HD 209458b, and WASP-12b, are between 60 and 900 light-years away. These giant gaseous worlds are so hot, with temperatures between 1,500 and 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, that they are ideal candidates for ...July 25, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Due to its high iron content, the acidic Río Tinto river flows like red wine through a multicolored and rocky landscape. The Río Tinto has an average pH of 2.3, which is acidic enough to eat metal. Image credit: Leslie Mullen
Astrobiologists have outlined how geochemistry and metabolism are connected in subsurface microbial ecosystems beneath Spain’s Rio Tinto region. The Iberian Pyrite Belt (IPB) in the Río Tinto area is the largest known deposit of sulfide on Earth, and for decades it has been a field-site for scientists studying chemolithotrophic microbes.
In the early 2000 ...July 24, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Motivated by the rapidly increasing number of known Earth-sized planets, the increasing range of extreme conditions in which life on Earth can persist, and the progress toward a technology that will ultimately enable the search for life on exoplanets, the Vatican Observatory and the Steward Observatory conducted a major conference entitled The Search for Life Beyond the Solar System: Exoplanets, Biosignatures & Instruments in March, 2014.
All the sessions were recorded and are archived here.
The conference brought together the interdisciplinary community required to address this multi-faceted challenge: experts on exoplanet observations, early and extreme life on Earth, atmospheric biosignatures, and ...July 18, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Just like Earth, Venus and Mars may once have been watery worlds. Image Credit: ESA
“An origin of life is not the same as an origin of a biosphere—that’s an important distinction,” says David Grinspoon, planetary scientist, curator of astrobiology for the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and the first Baruch S. Blumberg NASA-Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology.
To illustrate the concept Grinspoon offers a simple analogy. Say you’re starting a camp fire. It’s easy to get it to spark up, but you have to tend it first or it may just ...
A sunflower-shaped ‘starshade’ launched to space with a simple telescope could help scientists on the ground hunt for another Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech
Before the invention of the telescope, before every continent was on a map, even before the revelation that Earth was not the center of the Universe, humans have wondered at the possibility of life beyond our planet. Now, scientists know there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone (one of 10 billion galaxies in the mere observable Universe), and 10-20 percent of these stars could have earth-size planets within the habitable zone ...
Data management and sharing are growing concerns for scientists and funding organizations throughout the world. Funding organizations are implementing requirements for data management plans, while scientists are establishing new infrastructures for data sharing. One of the difficulties is sharing data among a diverse set of research disciplines. Astrobiology is a unique community of researchers, containing over 110 different disciplines.
In this new study, the results of a survey of data management practices among scientists involved in the astrobiology community and the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) in particular are presented. The results of the survey show that the astrobiology community shares ...July 14, 2014 / Written by: Daniella Scalice
The Licancabur volcano (5,917 m elevation – 19,800 ft) from Bolivia. Photo Credit: The High Lakes Project: The SETI Institute Carl Sagan Center/NASA Ames/ NAI
Astrobiologists from the United States and Germany have recorded the highest level of UV radiation from the Sun yet known at the Earth’s surface.
You might expect the highest radiation levels of this type on Earth to be somewhere in Antarctica – underneath the hole in Earth’s ozone layer. This layer of Earth’s stratosphere contains higher concentrations of ozone gas (O3) than the rest of the atmosphere, and ...July 11, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
NASA Television will air a panel discussion of leading science and engineering experts on Monday, July 14, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. EDT, who will describe the scientific and technological roadmap that will lead to the discovery of potentially habitable worlds among the stars.
The public is invited to attend or view the event, which will take place in the Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E Street SW in Washington.
Space and ground observatories are cataloging and characterizing hundreds and what is expected to eventually be thousands of potentially habitable worlds in our galaxy. NASA space-based observatories ...July 10, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
How do we define “life?” This fundamental question has remained largely philosophical, because it has been asked for so long, by so many, and with so few concrete conclusions.
In this seminar, produced by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, Dr. Steven Benner takes a different tack. He shows how laboratory studies can create a second example of life, helping us develop a firmer scientific understanding of what life is. The challenge of “synthetic biology” is on!
Dr. Benner discusses how we are hitchhiking on rockets, rovers, and telescopes to find life elsewhere in the Solar System, and describes how his research ...July 9, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
In this fascinating interview, the Huffington Post’s Suzan Mazur talks with NAI Principal Investigator Nigel Goldenfeld, of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. They discuss the emergence of a new theory of life, the nature of the evolutionary process, the origin of life, and more.
“Our collaborative position was that the Modern Synthesis is simply not enough,” said Goldenfeld, “population genetics is not a full account of the evolution process because it manifestly does not describe evolution before genes, it does not describe evolution before there were species and the lineages. The Modern Synthesis wasn’t designed to do so ...
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 ...
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
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 ...July 4, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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
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 ...July 3, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...July 2, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
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 ...July 1, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
- 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
- January 6 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference
- January 6 - 12th Meeting of NASA Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG)