NAI

  1. End of Permian Extinction Theory Draws Technical Comments


    Charles Marshall of NAI’s former Harvard University team published in this week’s Science his commentary on what he calls NAI Principal Investigator Peter Ward’s “groundbreaking” paper from January 2005. The comments are accompanied by a response from Ward et al.

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  1. Could Impacts Have Caused Flooding on Mars?


    NAI scientists on the University of California, Berkeley team describe, in a recent issue of Icarus, how meteoritic impacts on Mars may have caused Earth-like saturated soil liquefaction and potentially enabled violent groundwater eruption. Enough water, they say, could have been erupted to produce floods and outflow channels.

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  1. Increased H2S in the Deep Ocean – Bad News for Life?


    NAI scientists on the Penn State and University of Colorado teams published recently in Geology their studies showing that increases in the level of hydrogen sulfide in the deep ocean during oceanic anoxic periods in Earth’s history could cause elevated H2S levels in shallower waters and in the atmosphere. This may have caused, they propose, destruction of the ozone shield and an increase in atmospheric methane, and may have helped spell the end for life at several extinction events.

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  1. Seeking the Wisdom of the Ancients: Microbial Mats and Biosignatures


    Understanding microbial communities can give clues to how life shaped the Earth billions of years ago – and help find signs of life on distant planets.

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  1. A Mild, Habitable Hadean?


    NAI’s Mark Harrison of the UCLA team co-authored a study published in this week’s Science describing a titanium thermometer technique used to measure the temperature at which ancient zircons from the Jack Hills in Western Australia formed. The results paint a mild picture of the Hadean, complete with an atmosphere and liquid water.

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  1. Teasing Out an Acid Mine Biofilm Microbial Community


    Members of NAI’s UC Berkeley team, led by Jill Banfield, published this week in Sciencexpress their study of the gene expression and protein complement of a microbial biofilm community living in a natural acid mine drainage at Iron Mountain in Northern California. The studies were done on non-cultivated, natural samples, and proteins involved in protein refolding and response to oxidative stress appeared to be highly expressed.

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  1. Uncertain Object Orbiting Brown Dwarf Confirmed as Giant Planet


    NAI’s Ben Zuckerman of the UCLA team told UCLA, “The two objects – the giant planet and the young brown dwarf – are moving together; we have observed them for a year, and the new images essentially confirm our 2004 finding.” The international team recently published their discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Team lead Gael Chauvin of the European Southern Observatory declares this to be the first planet outside our Solar System ever to be imaged.

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  1. The 2005 General Meeting of the NASA Astrobiology Institute


    Many attendees felt that astrobiology had come of age. The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) held its fourth biennial meeting at Boulder, Colorado, April 10-14.

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  1. Iron Record: Ancient Rocks Tell the Story of Oxygen, and Life


    About two billion years ago, a flood of oxygen dramatically changed Earth’s chemistry. Researchers have reconstructed this transformation through studying ancient iron pyrite rocks. Studying the iron in rocks from other planets may give evidence of extraterrestrial life.

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  1. On the Road


    A human geologist could productively cover a two-kilometer stretch of ground in perhaps an hour and a half. For a robotic geologist – NASA’s Spirit rover – it takes a bit longer, more like a month and a half. Still, it’s an impressive journey that will yield important scientific information.

    Spirit’s destination is the Columbia Hills, a group of seven low hills that rise up from the floor of Gusev Crater about 1.7 kilometers (about 1.2 miles) from the rover’s landing site. The Columbia Hills are a tempting target because, scientists believe, they are older than ...

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  1. New Endolithic Microbial Community at Yellowstone


    This week in Nature, members of NAI’s University of Colorado, Boulder team published their description of an extremely acidic, endolithic, microbial community inhabiting the pore spaces between rocks Yellowstone National Park’s Norris Geyser Basin. The community includes mainly photosynthetic algae and previously unknown Mycobacterium species.

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  1. Finding a Second Sample of Life on Earth?


    Scientists and theorists from NAI’s International Affiliate Member, The Australian Centre for Astrobiology, recently published a “hypothesis paper” in Astrobiology discussing the possibility of life emerging on Earth more than once.

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  1. A Deeper Look Into “Great Dying” Theory


    This week, NAI Principal Investigator Peter Ward published a follow on to his January Science paper which described a potential cause for the extinction events on the P/T boundary: “atmospheric warming because of greenhouse gases triggered by erupting volcanoes.” This new paper, “Hypoxia, Global Warming, and Terrestrial Late Permian Extinctions,” further elucidates this story; its focus is on characterizing environmental degradation approaching and succeeding the “final catastrophe.”

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  1. MISSIONS – Flying a Science Lab to Mars


    Even before the Mars Science Lander (MSL) touches down descending from its hovering mother ship like a baby spider from an egg case the first of a slew of cameras will have started recording, capturing and storing high-resolution video of the landing area.

    The MSL landing will represent a first, says Frank Palluconi, MSL project scientist. After entering the Mars atmosphere- like Viking and MER but with a potential landing zone about one fourth the size – he says, MSL will show its stuff. “It completes the descent down to the ten-meter [33-foot] level, or so, where the descent vehicle hovers ...

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  1. NAI Scientists Turn to Mexican Lake for Clues to Alien Life


    Scientists from NAI’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory recently visited the exotic lakes of Cuatro Ciengas in Mexico’s Chihuahuan desert. What’s being studied there may provide clues what life on other, distant worlds may be like, and help scientists understand and interpret the data coming back from extrasolar planets?

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