NAI

  1. The Formation of Complex Organic Molecules in Star-Forming Regions


    Eric Herbst. Credit: University of Virginia Eric Herbst. Credit: University of Virginia

    On March 10, Eric Herbst of the University of Virginia will present the next Astrobiology Director’s Seminar: The Formation of Complex Organic Molecules in Star-Forming Regions.

    Please join us at 11 am PDT. Connection details are available here.

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  1. New Technique to Date Ancient Zircons


    Jack Hills Zircon

    New light has been shed on our understanding of Earth’s early crust thanks to a new study in Nature Geoscience by NAI-funded researchers at the University of Wisconsin.

    During the Hadean eon, between Earth’s formation and 4 billion years ago, the Earth differentiated into a core, mantle and crust. The planet was also resurfaced by bombardment of planetesimals and asteroids, as well as some form of plate tectonics. As a result, few rocks of Hadean age remain. Every scrap of material older than 4 billion years is therefore of great interest.

    The oldest preserved crust was previously thought ...

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  1. Clues to the Early Solar System in Carbon Fractionation


    An artist's impression of a planet-forming disk. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC) An artist's impression of a planet-forming disk. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)

    A team of astrobiologists supported by the NAI has shed new light on the mechanisms that fractionate carbon isotopes in planetary bodies. Their work shows that significant fractionation of carbon isotopes in nature may be the result of diffusion in iron-nickel metal, which is found inside planets and meteorites.

    Carbon is all around us. Life on Earth is carbon based, but the element is also abundant in the composition of planets and meteorites. By studying how different isotopes of carbon are formed, astrobiologists are able to ...

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  1. Astrobiology Math


    Interested in using astrobiology to teach math? Already teaching astrobiology and want to bring in some math problem sets? This resource is for you! The Astrobiology Math booklet was developed by Dr. Sten Odenwald at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as part of the Space Math at NASA project.

    The booklet contains 75 problems, introducing many topics in astrobiology. It covers concepts in evolution, the detection of extra-solar planets, habitability, Drake’s Equation, and the properties of planets such as temperature and distance from their star.

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  1. NASA’s Kepler Mission Announces a Planet Bonanza, 715 New Worlds


    The artist concept depicts multiple-transiting planet systems, which are stars with more than one planet. The planets eclipse or transit their host star from the vantage point of the observer. This an The artist concept depicts multiple-transiting planet systems, which are stars with more than one planet. The planets eclipse or transit their host star from the vantage point of the observer. This angle is called edge-on. Credit: NASA

    On Wednesday, NASA’s Kepler missions announced that 715 new planets have been verified in orbit around 305 stars. The discovery includes multiple planet systems similar to the Solar System, and marks a significant increase in the number of small-sized planets known to orbit distant stars.

    Four of the planets are less than 2.5 times the size of Earth and orbit within ...

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  1. Microbes, How Low Can You Go?


    Tullis Onstott of Princeton University opens a borehole in a section of rock wall in a South African mine. Image credit: Lisa M. Pratt / The Trustees of Indiana University / NASA / National Science Fo Tullis Onstott of Princeton University opens a borehole in a section of rock wall in a South African mine. Image credit: Lisa M. Pratt / The Trustees of Indiana University / NASA / National Science Foundation

    It seems like anywhere you look on Earth, microorganisms are there – even kilometers beneath the Earth’s surface where sunlight never reaches. Scientists are just beginning to understand Earth’s deep subsurface biosphere, but a new study supported by the NAI might help determine just how far down microbes can go on our planet. The results could also shed light on the potential for life’s origins ...

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  1. Searching for Life: What Does It Mean for Humanity?


    Is intelligence inevitable? How altruistic will aliens be (or will they just wipe us out)? These are just some of the questions posed at a Library of Congress astrobiology discussion on January 28, 2014. Moderated by Washington Post reporter Joel Achenbach, NASA/Library of Congress Astrobiology Chairs David Grinspoon and Steven Dick addressed the topic of “Searching for Life in the Universe: What Does it Mean for Humanity?”

    Grinspoon said it seems likely life is widespread throughout the universe because it originated so quickly on Earth. Soon after our planet settled down from its own tumultuous origins, life appeared.

    “Any ...

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  1. Meet a Rover Driver!


    Attention students! On February 27th, join this very special opportunity to meet and interact with one of Curiosity’s drivers—JPL’s Vandi Tompkins—ask questions about her life and career, and especially what it’s like to drive the rover. For more information, visit the NBN Mars Lab website.

    Source: [NBN Mars Lab]

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  1. Michael Meyer to Serve as NAI Director


    Effective April 7, 2014, Michael Meyer will serve on a one-year detail assignment as the interim director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

    NAI is a virtual, distributed organization of competitively-selected teams that integrate astrobiology research and training programs in concert with the national and international science communities. It is supported by the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

    NAI’s missions are to carry out, support, and catalyze collaborative, interdisciplinary research; to train the next generation of astrobiology researchers; to provide scientific and technical leadership on astrobiology investigations ...

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  1. Thomas Pierson 1950-2014


    Tom Pierson of the SETI Institute. Credit: SETI Tom Pierson of the SETI Institute. Credit: SETI

    Tom Pierson, who founded the SETI Institute and went on to become its Chief Executive Officer for most of the organization’s first thirty years, died on February 20 of cancer. He had been on medical leave since 2012.

    Under Pierson’s guidance, the Institute grew from a tiny, narrowly focused research center with a handful of employees to its current status: an internationally known organization that is home to more than 130 scientists, educators, and support staff.

    Thomas Pierson was presented the Distinguished Public Service Medal by the National Aeronautics and ...

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  1. Astrobiologist Receives Presidential Early Career Award


    Please join us in congratulating Moh El-Naggar, from NAI’s team at the University of Southern California, who recently received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

    Moh El-Naggar is an assistant professor of physics at the University of Southern California. El-Naggar received a B.S. degree from Lehigh University (2001), followed by M.S. (2002) and Ph.D. (2007) degrees from the division of engineering and applied science of the California Institute of Technology, where he was an Applied Materials, Inc. fellow. As a biophysicist, El-Naggar is a pioneer in studying energy conversion and charge transmission at ...

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  1. UH NAI-Nordic Winter School in Astrobiology


    A special “Winter School” for early career astrobiologists was held from January 1-14, 2014 in Hawai’i. The school was co-sponsored by the NAI team at the University of Hawai’i and the Nordic Network for Astrobiology.

    The program combined lectures, field excursions, and extended discussion time, and combined astronomy, biology, and geology via three main venues: Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, UH Institute for Astronomy in Hilo, HI, and the UH main campus in Manoa.

    30 participants from 8 countries joined 33 speakers and staff, also from around the world, to take part in 29 hours of lectures, 16 ...

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  1. Impacting the Hadean Earth


    The process of collision and accretion created the four rocky, or terrestrial, planets of our inner solar system — Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Credit: NASA Discovery Program The process of collision and accretion created the four rocky, or terrestrial, planets of our inner solar system — Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Credit: NASA Discovery Program

    Astrobiologists supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute have assessed the effects of impacts on the crust of the early Earth. The research could help determine whether or not evidence of such violent events in our planet’s early history could still be found in the geological record.

    During the first billion years after its formation, the inner solar system was crowded with debris. This resulted in frequent collisions, which not only played a ...

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  1. Summer Camp…in February!


    NAI’s team at RPI has been hosting the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp for the last several years. Here is a link to the NPR show To the Best of Our Knowledge featuring a digest of last year’s camp in which teams of middle-school students designed missions to search for life on Mars. It includes interviews with students from the winning team and their parents, prefaced by a superb introduction by Dr. Wayne Roberge. The camp is a vital component of the E/PO program of the NY Center for Astrobiology, and this show does an excellent ...

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  1. Radiation and Mars Exploration


    Photo of RAD flight model in the lab (left) and an artist's impression of the Curiosity rover on Mars. Credit: NASA / JPL Photo of RAD flight model in the lab (left) and an artist's impression of the Curiosity rover on Mars. Credit: NASA / JPL

    Scientists have published the first thorough analysis of radiation readings from the surface of another planet. Using its Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), NASA’s Curiosity rover measured radiation exposure during its journey to Mars, and the amount of radiation present at the planet’s surface.

    Radiation and its variations impact not only the planning of human and robotic missions, but also the search for extraterrestrial life. Without substantial atmospheric protection, powerful particles entering the air can penetrate ...

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