NAI

  1. In the Eye of the Beholder


    A TextureCam analysis of a Mars image is able to distinguish rocks from soil. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech/Cornell A TextureCam analysis of a Mars image is able to distinguish rocks from soil. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech/Cornell

    Researchers supported by the ASTID element of NASA’s Astrobiology program are designing algorithms and instruments that could help future robotic missions make their own decisions about surface sites to explore on other planets. One such instrument is the TextureCam, which is currently being tested with Mars in mind. The technology will improve the efficiency of planetary missions, allowing rovers to collect more data and perform more experiments in less time.

    “Roughly speaking, instead of telling the rover to “drive over ...

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  1. Astrobiology Graphic History – Issue #4!


    Panels from Astrobiology: The Story of our Search for Life in the Universe, Issue #4. Credit: NASA Astrobiology Panels from Astrobiology: The Story of our Search for Life in the Universe, Issue #4. Credit: NASA Astrobiology

    The fourth issue of the Astrobiology Graphic History book is now available! Download the digital version here (or the mobile-optimized version here)!

    Issue #4 maintains the gorgeous look and feel of the series, and continues the captivating story of Exo and Astrobiology. This installment explores astrobiology’s role in missions to the outer Solar System. See how science helped shape the exploration of gas giants and icy worlds beyond our system’s main asteroid belt.

    While spacecraft plied the distant corners of ...

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  1. NASA Astrobiology NPP Alumni Seminar Series: Sara Walker


    Sara Walker, assistant professor at Arizona State University. Credit: BEYOND, ASU Sara Walker, assistant professor at Arizona State University. Credit: BEYOND, ASU

    On February 3, 2014, Sara Walker of Arizona State University (ASU) will present the first in a series of seminars from alumni of the NASA Astrobiology NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP). In her talk, “Information Hierarchies, Chemical Evolution and the Transition From Non-Living to Living Matter,” Walker will discuss topics related to the emergence of life… and how to define ‘almost life.’

    Sara Walker is an assistant professor at the BEYOND Center in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU. Walker specializes in theoretical physics and astrobiology, and ...

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  1. The Search for Biosignatures in Our Solar System and Beyond


    Mary Voytek, Sara Seager and Steven Dick discuss the science of astrobiology with the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Credit: US House of Representatives Mary Voytek, Sara Seager and Steven Dick discuss the science of astrobiology with the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Credit: US House of Representatives

    On December 4, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a special hearing entitled, “Astrobiology: The Search for Biosignatures in our Solar System and Beyond.” The purpose of the hearing was not to develop policy, but instead to share information about the current state of astrobiology in the United States and to address the committee’s interests in NASA’s research on the search ...

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  1. A Decade in Red Dust


    A simulated view of Opportunity Inside 'Endurance Crater.' Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell A simulated view of Opportunity Inside 'Endurance Crater.' Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

    This month, NASA is celebrating 10 years of amazing discoveries by the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission. The twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on Mars in January of 2004 to begin a 90 day mission. A decade later, Opportunity is still collecting valuable scientific data on the surface of Mars.

    Opportunity touched down on Mars’ Meridiani Planum on January 25, 2004 (UTC). To celebrate the anniversary, several activities are taking place throughout the month of January. To begin the events, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum ...

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  1. David Grinspoon: Science and a Wisely Managed Earth


    Dr. David Grinspoon delivered the 2013 Carl Sagan Lecture presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. An outgrowth of his work as the first NASA—Library of Congress Baruch S. Blumberg Chair in Astrobiology, the talk is entitled “Terra Sapiens: The Role of Science in Fostering a Wisely Managed Earth.”

    Click here to watch a video of Dr. Grinspoon’s lecture.

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  1. NAI Cooperative Agreement Notice Cycle 7 Update


    Decisions have been made regarding the NAI CAN 7 Step-1 proposals. Of the 56 proposals received, 38 were “encouraged” and 18 were “discouraged.” Proposers were notified December 20, 2013. Click here for links to all the CAN 7 official documentation.

    Source: [NASA NSPIRES]

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  1. NOVA: Alien Planets Revealed


    NOVA has just released a new special focusing on Kepler, the discovery and characterization of exoplanets, and astrobiology in general. Click here for more information and to stream the video.

    It’s a golden age for planet hunters: NASA’s Kepler mission has identified more than 3,500 potential planets orbiting stars beyond our Sun. Some of them, like a planet called Kepler-22b, might even be able to harbor life. How did we come upon this distant planet?

    Combining startling animation with input from expert astrophysicists and astrobiologists, Alien Planets Revealed takes viewers on a journey along with the Kepler ...

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  1. News From Kepler: Five New Exoplanets


    Chart of Kepler planet candidates as of January 2014. Chart of Kepler planet candidates as of January 2014.

    More than three-quarters of the planet candidates discovered by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have sizes ranging from that of Earth to that of Neptune, which is nearly four times as big as Earth. Such planets dominate the galactic census but are not represented in our own solar system. Astronomers don’t know how they form or if they are made of rock, water or gas.

    The Kepler team today reports on four years of ground-based follow-up observations targeting Kepler’s exoplanet systems at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington. These ...

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  1. Solving a Temperature Mystery on Extrasolar Planets


    The sun is just below the horizon in this photo and creates an orange-red glow above the Earth’s surface, which is the troposphere, or lowest layer of the atmosphere. The tropopause is the brown line The sun is just below the horizon in this photo and creates an orange-red glow above the Earth’s surface, which is the troposphere, or lowest layer of the atmosphere. The tropopause is the brown line along the upper edge of the troposphere. Above both are the stratosphere, higher atmospheric layers, and the blackness of space. Credit: NASA Johnson Space Center

    Astrobiologists supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute have found that a peculiar feature in the atmosphere of Earth could also be present on billions of extrasolar planets. The new findings will help in the search for habitable worlds beyond ...

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  1. Two New Extrasolar Planet Atmospheres Observed


    Scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have characterized the atmospheres of two of the most common type of planets in the Milky Way galaxy and found both may be blanketed with clouds.

    The planets are GJ 436b, located 36 light-years from Earth in the constellation Leo, and GJ 1214b, 40 light-years away in the constellation Ophiuchus. Despite numerous efforts, the nature of the atmospheres surrounding these planets had eluded definitive characterization until now. The researchers described their work as an important milestone on the road to characterizing potentially habitable, Earth-like worlds beyond the solar system. Their findings appear in ...

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  1. Curious Results From Mars


    Rover traverse and location of ChemCam soil targets for the first 100 sols Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona, Figure from Meslin et al. (2013) Rover traverse and location of ChemCam soil targets for the first 100 sols Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona, Figure from Meslin et al. (2013)

    NASA’s Curiosity rover is now returning vast amounts of data from Mars. Findings from the mission were recently showcased in two special editions in the journal Science. In September, five papers were released describing results of Curiosity’s examinations of the rock Jake_M and a site known as Rocknest. Astrobiology Magazine spoke with some of the researchers behind the September Science articles in order to better understand how Curiosity’s findings relate to the ...

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  1. Seasonally Changing Surface Flows on Mars


    Seasonal Changes in Dark Marks on an Equatorial Martian Slope These images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show how the appearance of dark markings on Martian slope changes with the seasons. The marks, called recurrent slope linea, extend down slopes during warmer months and fade away during cooler months. This animation shows the same location at several times of year. The location is in a crater on the floor of Valles Marineris, near the Martian equator.

    NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has revealed to scientists slender dark markings — possibly due to salty water – that advance seasonally down slopes surprisingly ...

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  1. Titan’s North: A Land-O-Lakes


    This colorized mosaic from NASA's Cassini mission shows the most complete view yet of Titan's northern land of lakes and seas. Saturn's moon Titan is the only world in our solar system other than Earth that has stable liquid on its surface. The liquid in Titan's lakes and seas is mostly methane and ethane.

    NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is providing scientists with key clues about Saturn’s moon Titan, and in particular, its hydrocarbon lakes and seas.

    Titan is one of the most Earth-like places in the solar system, and the only place other than our planet that has stable liquid on its surface.

    Cassini’s recent close flybys are bringing into sharper focus a region in Titan’s ...

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  1. Dating on the Shores of a Habitable Martian Lake


    This mosaic of images from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows a series of sedimentary deposits in the Glenelg area of Gale Crater, from a perspective in Yellowkn This mosaic of images from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows a series of sedimentary deposits in the Glenelg area of Gale Crater, from a perspective in Yellowknife Bay looking toward west-northwest. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

    Six new papers outlining science results from NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars have been published in the journal Science Express. Talks on the results were also given during the 2013 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), held in San Francisco from December 9-13.

    The papers provide valuable information for astrobiologists who are attempting to ...

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