NAI

  1. Follow AbGradE 2014 Live on SAGANet!


    The first symposium of AbGradE (Astrobiology Graduates in Europe) will be streamed live on SAGANet October, 9th-10th at http://saganet.org/page/saganlive

    The purpose of AbGradE is to start a network of early-career astrobiologists in Europe. Yearly symposia will be organized where young researchers can meet, attend background lectures, and present their work and ideas in front of their peers in a pressure-free environment.

    The group emerged in response to the rising need for multidisciplinary collaborations and for the creation of a solid scientific and social network across the astrobiological scene. It will also strive to set a common ...

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  1. In the Zone. The Venus Zone: Seeking the Twin of Our Twin Among the Stars


    Not every planet in or near a habitable zone is habitable. Inhospitable Venus is an excellent example. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech Not every planet in or near a habitable zone is habitable. Inhospitable Venus is an excellent example. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech

    A new study explores how distant analogs to Venus might be detected and differentiated from Earth-like planets. Discovering a twin to Venus could help astrobiologists identify systems similar to our own Solar System and narrow the search for habitable worlds around distant stars.

    The work was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory and published in Astrophyiscal Journal Letters.

    Dr. Shawn Domagal-Goldman of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and co-author of the study recently spoke ...

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  1. Simulated Atmospheres of Alien Worlds


    Left: Ozone molecules in a planet's atmosphere could indicate biological activity, but ozone, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide -- without methane, is likely a false positive. Right: Ozone, oxygen, c Left: Ozone molecules in a planet's atmosphere could indicate biological activity, but ozone, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide -- without methane, is likely a false positive. Right: Ozone, oxygen, carbon dioxide and methane -- without carbon monoxide, indicate a possible true positive.

    Astronomers searching the atmospheres of alien worlds for gases that might be produced by life can’t rely on the detection of just one type, such as oxygen, ozone, or methane, because in some cases these gases can be produced non-biologically, according to extensive simulations by researchers in the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory. The study appears ...

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  1. The Hypatia Catalogue


    An Arizona State University alumna has devised the largest catalog ever produced for stellar compositions. Called the Hypatia Catalog, after one of the first female astronomers who lived ~350 AD in Alexandria, the work is critical to understanding the properties of stars, how they form, and possible connections with the formation and habitability of orbiting planets. And what she found from her work is that the compositions of nearby stars aren’t as uniform as once thought.

    Since it is not possible to physically sample a star to determine its composition, astronomers study of the light from the object. This ...

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  1. Call for Session Topics and Organizers for AbSciCon 2015


    Deadline to submit Session Topics is October 22, 2014

    The Astrobiology Science Conference 2015 (AbSciCon2015) Science Organizing Committee is soliciting community input for Session Topics and Session Organizers. Given the wide variety of disciplinary tools and topics to be presented at the conference, the success of AbSciCon 2015 will be built upon the community’s involvement in the organization of topical sessions. Community members are urged to be proactive in proposing sessions, merging similar session topics, and organizing abstracts into selected sessions.

    To submit a session topic and to see the list of submissions visit: http://www.hou.usra.edu ...

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  1. Modeling Sulfur in the Archean Atmosphere


    Artist impression of Earth during the Archean eon. Image Credit: Peter Sawyer / Smithsonian Institution Artist impression of Earth during the Archean eon. Image Credit: Peter Sawyer / Smithsonian Institution

    A new study supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) has revealed details about the composition of Earth’s atmosphere during the Archean eon, which occurred roughly 4 to 2.4 billion years ago.

    Astrobiologists study the Archean in order to better understand the early evolution of life on Earth, and how organisms survived in an environment that was much different than the planet today. Studying the Archean Earth can also provide clues about life’s potential beyond our planet.

    “The Archean Earth is the most ...

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  1. California High School Students Become Field Astrobiologists


    Led by a NASA scientist, students hike into Lassen Volcanic National Park to sample hydrothermal waters. NASA Led by a NASA scientist, students hike into Lassen Volcanic National Park to sample hydrothermal waters. NASA

    Mayson Trujillo stretches across a rock at the edge of a stream cascading through Lassen Volcanic National Park. Braving snow from an advancing blizzard, she meticulously collects a sample of the sulphur-scented water. Trujillo, a senior at Red Bluff High School in California, is intent on the task at hand: gathering data that may hold clues for early life on Earth—and potentially, Mars.

    To reach the stream, Trujillo and 13 classmates snowshoed a mile into the center of an ancient volcano—for ...

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  1. How Titan’s Haze Helps Us Understand Life’s Origins


    Saturn’s moon Titan appears as a hazy ball from a distance. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute Saturn’s moon Titan appears as a hazy ball from a distance. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    In a new study, astrobiologists are attempting to recreate substances found in the atmosphere of Titan known as tholins. These organic aerosols are formed as radiation and interact with the thick atmosphere of the Saturnian moon. The production of organics in Titan’s atmosphere could help astrobiologists better understand the conditions in which life arose on the early Earth.

    The study was led by Dr. Chao He at the University of Houston (now of Johns Hopkins University). Chao is ...

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  1. NASA’s 3-D Study of Comets Reveals Chemical Factory at Work



    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 ...

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  1. JPL Summer Intern Works on the Emergence of Life


    JPL intern Jessica Nuñez observes hydrothermal chimneys in the laboratory. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Alexis Drake 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 ...

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  1. Dr. Carl Pilcher Returns to NAI as Interim Director


    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 ...

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  1. Tuscon Astrobiology Conference: Recorded Sessions Available


    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 ...

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  1. Data Management in Astrobiology


    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 ...

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  1. Astrobiologists Set UV Radiation Record


    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 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

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    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 ...

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  1. Finding Alien Life: On Earth, on Mars, and Throughout the Cosmos


    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 ...

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