This rotating 3-D map shows how HCN molecules are released from the nucleus of comet Lemmon and then spread evenly throughout the atmosphere, or coma. Image Credit: Brian Kent/NRAO/AUI/NSF
A NASA-led team of scientists has created detailed 3-D maps of the atmospheres surrounding comets, identifying several gases and mapping their spread at the highest resolution ever achieved.
“We achieved truly first-of-a-kind mapping of important molecules that help us understand the nature of comets,” said Martin Cordiner, a researcher working in the Goddard Center for Astrobiology at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Cordiner led ...
JPL intern Jessica Nuñez observes hydrothermal chimneys in the laboratory. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Alexis Drake
Not many interns get the opportunity to study one of humanity’s biggest questions: How did life emerge? But mechanical engineering major Jessica Nuñez is having the experience of a lifetime in search of the answer. Nuñez is interning this summer in the Planetary Sciences Section at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
As part of a NASA Astrobiology Institute project led by Isik Kanik, Nuñez constructs and analyzes simulated hydrothermal vents, chimney-like structures that are hypothesized to have been the birthing ...
The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) welcomes back Dr. Carl B. Pilcher as NAI Interim Director. Carl will begin his tenure August 11, 2014, and serve on a half-time basis for approximately one year as the selection of a permanent director is completed.
Dr. Pilcher has had careers in both academia and NASA management. Dr. Pilcher retired as Director of the NAI in early 2013, after leading the Institute for more than six years. Prior to directing the Institute he was the Senior Scientist for Astrobiology at NASA Headquarters with overall management responsibility for NASA’s Astrobiology Program.
With bachelor’s ...August 7, 2014 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
Motivated by the rapidly increasing number of known Earth-sized planets, the increasing range of extreme conditions in which life on Earth can persist, and the progress toward a technology that will ultimately enable the search for life on exoplanets, the Vatican Observatory and the Steward Observatory conducted a major conference entitled The Search for Life Beyond the Solar System: Exoplanets, Biosignatures & Instruments in March, 2014.
All the sessions were recorded and are archived here.
The conference brought together the interdisciplinary community required to address this multi-faceted challenge: experts on exoplanet observations, early and extreme life on Earth, atmospheric biosignatures, and ...July 18, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Data management and sharing are growing concerns for scientists and funding organizations throughout the world. Funding organizations are implementing requirements for data management plans, while scientists are establishing new infrastructures for data sharing. One of the difficulties is sharing data among a diverse set of research disciplines. Astrobiology is a unique community of researchers, containing over 110 different disciplines.
In this new study, the results of a survey of data management practices among scientists involved in the astrobiology community and the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) in particular are presented. The results of the survey show that the astrobiology community shares ...July 14, 2014 / Written by: Daniella Scalice
The Licancabur volcano (5,917 m elevation – 19,800 ft) from Bolivia. Photo Credit: The High Lakes Project: The SETI Institute Carl Sagan Center/NASA Ames/ NAI
Astrobiologists from the United States and Germany have recorded the highest level of UV radiation from the Sun yet known at the Earth’s surface.
You might expect the highest radiation levels of this type on Earth to be somewhere in Antarctica – underneath the hole in Earth’s ozone layer. This layer of Earth’s stratosphere contains higher concentrations of ozone gas (O3) than the rest of the atmosphere, and ...July 11, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
How do we define “life?” This fundamental question has remained largely philosophical, because it has been asked for so long, by so many, and with so few concrete conclusions.
In this seminar, produced by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, Dr. Steven Benner takes a different tack. He shows how laboratory studies can create a second example of life, helping us develop a firmer scientific understanding of what life is. The challenge of “synthetic biology” is on!
Dr. Benner discusses how we are hitchhiking on rockets, rovers, and telescopes to find life elsewhere in the Solar System, and describes how his research ...July 9, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
In this fascinating interview, the Huffington Post’s Suzan Mazur talks with NAI Principal Investigator Nigel Goldenfeld, of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. They discuss the emergence of a new theory of life, the nature of the evolutionary process, the origin of life, and more.
“Our collaborative position was that the Modern Synthesis is simply not enough,” said Goldenfeld, “population genetics is not a full account of the evolution process because it manifestly does not describe evolution before genes, it does not describe evolution before there were species and the lineages. The Modern Synthesis wasn’t designed to do so ...
View of the possible inner planets of the Gliese 581 system along with their star, a red dwarf. Credit: Lynette Cook
What astronomers thought were a pair of potentially life-friendly alien worlds are illusions, apparitions conjured up by a star’s intense magnetic activity, a new NAI-funded study suggests.
These new findings could one day not only help astronomers dispel more such illusory exoplanets, but discover worlds that would otherwise remain hidden, scientists added. A new video about the possible cosmic illusions also details the finding.
Astronomers have confirmed the existence of more than 1,700 planets beyond the solar ...
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 ...July 2, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
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 ...July 1, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
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 ...June 30, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
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 ...
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 ...June 18, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
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]
- August 21 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 46th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS 2014)
- August 25 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 2nd International Workshop on 'Instrumentation for Planetary Missions' (IPM-2014)
- August 27 - Astronomy Ambassadors Outreach Workshop Application Deadline
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- September 8 - 77th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society
- September 12 - Application Deadline for Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life Investigator and Postdoctoral Fellowship
- September 15 - Step-1 Proposal Deadline for ROSES-14 Amendment 4: Eligible TRLs changed for C.12, PICASSO
- September 15 - Proposal deadline for the Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in the Chemical Sciences
- September 17 - Step-2 proposal deadline for ROSES-14 Amendment 2: Final text for C.14, PSTAR
- September 18 - Symposium on Astrobiology and Society: Discovering Life Beyond Earth
- September 24 - Summer Course on Exoplanets
- September 30 - Abstract Submission Deadline: for Hayabusa 2014: 2nd Symposium of Solar System Materials
- October 1 - Application Deadline for ESA Postdoctoral Fellowships in Space Science
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