NAI

  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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  1. 2013 Annual Science Report


    The 2013 Annual Science Report of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) is now online. The report details the accomplishments of the NAI members for the past year, and reflects the results of more than 600 peer-reviewed publications and numerous Education and Public Outreach projects. Also featured are efforts by the NAI to connect its members and the larger astrobiology community through online events, seminars, workshops and focus groups.

    The 2013 Annual Science Report can be browsed by NAI team, Astrobiology Roadmap objectives, or by using the search function.

    Visit the link and see how NAI researchers are asking exciting questions ...

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  1. A Breath of Fresh Air: NPP Post Doc Trinity Hamilton


    Trinity Hamilton, an NAI NPP Fellow, takes samples from a thermal spring in Yellowstone National Park. Trinity Hamilton, an NAI NPP Fellow, takes samples from a thermal spring in Yellowstone National Park.

    NAI’s NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow Trinity Hamilton was featured in a recent issue of the NPP Newsletter:

    Humble beginnings in a one-room grade school in rural Montana led Trinity Hamilton to look to the stars. Now, as a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow with the NASA Astrobiology Institute, she brings her focus back to the ground to help expand our knowledge of the emergence of life on Earth.

    “Understanding the role of biology in planetary evolution remains a daunting challenge to astrobiologists,” she said ...

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  1. Destroying Glycine in Ice


    This MARCI image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is a composite mosaic of the north polar cap. The images were taken at midnight, 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. martian time, during the summer when the This MARCI image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is a composite mosaic of the north polar cap. The images were taken at midnight, 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. martian time, during the summer when the sun is always shining in the polar region. The image shows the mostly water-ice perennial cap (white area), sitting atop the north polar layered materials (light tan immediately adjacent to the ice), and the dark circumpolar dunes. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS

    Astrobiologists have provided new insight into how radiation exposure can destroy the amino acid glycine, even when it’s trapped ...

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