1. 2012 Astrobiology Graduate Student Conference

    The 2012 Astrobiology Graduate Student Conference will be held on August 27–30, 2012, preceded by the Research Focus Group splinter, August 24-26. The conference will be held at the California Institute for Technology (Caltech), with an outreach event at the University of Southern California (USC), and a field-trip to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

    The conference will consist of three days of scientific sessions, two evenings of public outreach and education activities, and a one day field trip to JPL. The talks and poster sessions will draw on the success of past AbGradCons as a venue for early career ...

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  1. A Salt-Free Primordial Soup?

    Most scientists who study the origin of life assume that it occurred in the ocean. But a minority view is that ions in seawater may interfere with prebiotic chemistry, making a freshwater environment more likely.

    “The main argument for a marine origin is that there is so much seawater,” says David Deamer of UC Santa Cruz. Roughly 98% of the Earth’s water bodies are salty, and this percentage was likely much higher 4 billion years ago when we think the first life-forms made their appearance.

    But Deamer doesn’t think quantity is a substitute for quality. Seawater, in his ...

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  1. The Pale Blue Blog

    The Astrobiology Magazine is now welcoming the addition of the Pale Blue Blog – a unique collection of individual bloggers who voice their opinions on matters ranging from the evolution of life to extrasolar planets. According to the organizers, the new science blog is “about 'Pale blue dots,’ in the way that Carl Sagan once referred to the Earth.”

    From Pale Blue Blog:
    This blog aims to be a little different than your “traditional” science blog, in much the same way an interactive classroom is different from a “traditional” powerpoint-based one. We want to foster multi-directional conversations. This includes giving “non-bloggers ...

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  1. FameLab Astrobiology in Houston

    We need you in Houston! Sign up today to participate in FameLab Astrobiology at the Lunar and Planetary Institute on January 13th. FameLab is a science communication competition that focuses on building your skills with workshops on good communication practices. The workshop in Houston will be led by the Co-Directors of the National Association for Interpretation. Competitors will present a three-minute piece on their research or an astrobiology-related topic of their choosing. Those topping the competition in Houston will go on to the final at AbSciCon in April…the winner there will go on to the FameLab International final in ...

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  1. New Astrobiology Chair at Library of Congress


    Candidates should apply directly using the online form. Nominations should be submitted in writing to

    NASA and the Library of Congress have established the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA-Library of Congress chair in Astrobiology at the Library’s scholarly research organization, the John W. Kluge Center in Washington. The chair is named for the late Nobel Laureate and founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, Baruch
    “Barry” Blumberg.

    Astrobiology is the study of the origins, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe. Astrobiology addresses three fundamental questions: How did life ...

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  1. Deep Freezing the Early Earth

    Researchers supported by the NASA Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology Program have adapted a three-dimensional, general circulation model of Earth’s climate to a time some 2.8 billion years ago when the Sun was significantly fainter than today. Their work indicates that the early Earth may have been more prone to catastrophic glaciation than previously believed.

    The new 3-D model could help solve the “faint young Sun paradox.” Several billion years ago during the Archean Eon, the Sun’s output was only 70 to 80 percent of today’s levels. However, geologic evidence shows the climate was as warm or ...

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  1. NAI Cooperative Agreement Notice Cycle 6 Now Available

    The NAI Cooperative Agreement Notice Cycle 6 is an opportunity for the submission of team-based proposals for membership in the NASA Astrobiology Institute. Proposers will be required to clearly articulate an innovative, interdisciplinary research program in astrobiology, together with plans to advance the full scope of NAI objectives as defined in the Institute’s Mission Statement.

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  1. In Memoriam: Lynn Margulis, 1938-2011

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    Evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis, a long-time member of the astrobiology community, died at her home on November 22. She was 73.

    Margulis was brilliant, passionate, dedicated, and insatiably curious, about science, education, and life. A superb communicator as well as an outstanding scientist, she participated in hands-on teaching activities at levels from middle to graduate school, served as a faculty mentor at Boston University for years, gave much of her time to public speaking, and authored numerous books about science for scientific and public audiences, many with her son Dorion. She has been, and will remain, an ...

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  1. FameLab Astrobiology

    Are You the Next Carl Sagan? Come Find Out at FameLab Astrobiology!

    Calling all grad students and post docs doing research related to astrobiology…..FameLab Astrobiology is a science communication extravaganza! Via four preliminaries and one final competition—spanning January thru April 2012—early career astrobiologists will compete to convey their own research or related science concepts. Each contestant has the spotlight for only three minutes….no slides, no charts—just the power of words and anything you can hold in your hands. A panel of experts in both science and science communication will do the judging.  One of the ...

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  1. Timeline of a Mass Extinction

    A new study from NASA Astrobiology Program-funded scientists points to rapid collapse of Earth’s species 252 million years ago.

    Since the first organisms appeared on Earth approximately 3.8 billion years ago, life on the planet has had some close calls. In the last 500 million years, Earth has undergone five mass extinctions, including the event 66 million years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs. And while most scientists agree that a giant asteroid was responsible for that extinction, there’s much less consensus on what caused an even more devastating extinction more than 185 million years earlier.

    The ...

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  1. Sweet Spots for Galactic Organics

    Scientists from NAI’s New York Center for Astrobiology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have compiled years of research to help locate areas in outer space that have extreme potential for complex organic molecule formation. The scientists searched for methanol, a key ingredient in the synthesis of organic molecules that could lead to life. Their results have implications for determining the origins of molecules that spark life in the cosmos.

    The findings appear in the Nov. 20 edition of The Astrophysical Journal in a paper titled “Observational constraints on methanol production in interstellar and preplanetary ices.” The work is collaboration between ...

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  1. AbSciCon Call for Abstracts and Conference Registration Opens Nov 22nd

    Both the Call for Abstracts and Conference Registration will open on the AbSciCon website on Tuesday, November 22nd. Information on student travel grant applications will also be available, as well as updated logistics information.

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  1. Cometary Composition in Review

    Astrobiology Program investigators Michael Mumma and Steven Charnley from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have recently published a review entitled The Chemical Composition of Comets: Emerging Taxonomies and Natal Heritage in the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Complimentary, one-time access to the article is provided for your own personal use. Any further/multiple distribution, publication, or commercial usage of this copyrighted material requires submission of a permission request addressed to the Annual Reviews Permissions Department, email

    Cometary nuclei contain the least modified material from the formative epoch of our planetary system, and their compositions reflect ...

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  1. Studying Biology’s Dark Matter

    Astrobiologists have long been interested in microorganisms that can survive in the harshest environments that Earth has to offer, from deep sea vents to geothermal hot springs. Unfortunately, these studies are hindered by a phenomenon known as 'biological dark matter.’

    Biological dark matter is a term that refers to the numerous microorganisms that live in natural environments on Earth that cannot be cultivated in a laboratory. In order to study how microorganisms function, and the role they play in terrestrial ecosystems, scientists have traditionally relied on their ability to grow and observe them in the lab. These laboratory studies have ...

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  1. Follow the Uranium

    Researchers funded by NASA’s Astrobiology Institute and Exobiology Program have developed a novel geochemical tool that compares the partitioning of uranium isotopes from seawater into carbonates. A decrease of uranium in seawater is indicative of a lack of oxygen (anoxia) in the ocean.

    For the first time ever, this approach has revealed the quantitative levels of dissolved oxygen in ancient oceans at the time of Earth’s largest mass extinction, known as the end-Permian mass extinction, 252 million years ago. Many leading scientific theories on the cause of this catastrophe are based on the assumption of a long-term existence ...

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