NAI

  1. How Can We Search for Life on Icy Moons?


    Artist’s conception of water vapor plume erupting from the icy surface of Europa, a moon of Jupiter, based on data from the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA/ESA/K. Retherford/SWRI Artist’s conception of water vapor plume erupting from the icy surface of Europa, a moon of Jupiter, based on data from the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA/ESA/K. Retherford/SWRI

    How likely is habitability on icy worlds, and how would we search for it? This is one of the questions driving a research team led by Isik Kanik at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

    Kanik’s team was selected for a new grant from the NASA Astrobiology Institute for a five-year project looking at how metabolism could come about by way of chemical differences on icy worlds, and ...

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  1. Touchdown on a Comet


    Two images from Philae's Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer (CIVA) confirm that the lander is on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. One of the lader's feet can be seen in the for Two images from Philae's Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer (CIVA) confirm that the lander is on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. One of the lader's feet can be seen in the foreground. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

    The European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully performed the first soft landing on a comet. The Rosetta mission delivered the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12, 2014. The first two images from the lander have now confirmed that the craft is safely positioned on the comet.

    For more on the Rosetta mission, visit: http://www.esa ...

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  1. Lack of Oxygen Delayed the Rise of Animals on Earth


    Chris Reinhard and Noah Planavsky conduct research for the study. Credit: Yale University Chris Reinhard and Noah Planavsky conduct research for the study. Credit: Yale University

    New research could explain why it took around a billion years for animal species to flourish on Earth after oxygen levels in the atmosphere began to increase.

    Animal life on Earth boomed around 800 million years ago at the end of the Proterozoic period, but scientists have long believed that there was sufficient oxygen in the atmosphere for this increase in animal diversity to occur much earlier. However, new findings published in the journal Science show that oxygen levels were only 0.1% of those we see ...

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  1. In Memoriam: Katrina Edwards


    Katrina J. Edwards, March 15, 1968 - October 26, 2014 Katrina J. Edwards, March 15, 1968 - October 26, 2014

    The astrobiology community deeply mourns the passing of Katrina Edwards, a geomicrobiologist and very bright light in many of our lives. Please see the blog set up by her family for more information on her life and work, and to contribute remembrances of Katrina.

    Katrina Jane Edwards passed away peacefully on October 26, 2014, after a long illness. She was born March 15, 1968, in Columbus, Oh., the third of five children raised by Timothy and Sandra Edwards and big sister Laura Edwards. Katrina completed her secondary education at Columbus Alternative ...

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  1. Titan Glowing at Dusk and Dawn


    High in the atmosphere of Titan, large patches of two trace gases glow near the north pole, on the dusk side of the moon, and near the south pole, on the dawn side. Brighter colors indicate stronger s High in the atmosphere of Titan, large patches of two trace gases glow near the north pole, on the dusk side of the moon, and near the south pole, on the dawn side. Brighter colors indicate stronger signals from the two gases, HNC (left) and HC3N (right); red hues indicate less pronounced signals. Image Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF

    New maps of Saturn’s moon Titan reveal large patches of trace gases shining brightly near the north and south poles. These regions are curiously shifted off the poles, to the east or west, so that dawn is breaking over the southern ...

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  1. Exomoons Could Be Abundant Sources of Habitability


    Europa is one of the moons in our solar system that could host life. What about beyond the solar system? Credit: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk Europa is one of the moons in our solar system that could host life. What about beyond the solar system? Credit: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk

    With about 4,000 planet candidates from the Kepler Space Telescope data to analyze so far, astronomers are busy trying to figure out questions about habitability. Look at our own solar system, however, and there’s a big gap in the information we need. Most of the planets have moons, so surely at least some of what Kepler finds would have them as well. Tracking down these tiny worlds, however, is a challenge.

    A new ...

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  1. Ariel Anbar Named President of Biogeosciences Leadership at AGU



    Ariel Anbar, Principal Investigator (PI) in the Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology (Exo/Evo) element of the NASA Astrobiology Program, has been named President-Elect of the Biogeosciences Leadership at the American Geophysical Union for the 2015-2016 Term.

    Anbar is a Professor in Arizona State University’s (ASU) School of Earth and Space Exploration. Earlier this year, he was also selected as the first Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor at ASU.

    In addition to his work with Exo/Evo, Anbar is also a Co-Investigator for the new NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) team at the University of California: Riverside.

    The 2014 AGU Fall ...

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  1. Sean Solomon to Receive National Medal of Science


    Sean Solomon, PI for NASA's MESSENGER mission, has been selected to receive the National Medal of Science. Credit: NASA Sean Solomon, PI for NASA's MESSENGER mission, has been selected to receive the National Medal of Science. Credit: NASA

    Sean Solomon, former principal investigator for the NASA Astrobiology Institute team at the Carnegie Institution, has been selected to receive the National Medal of Science.

    Solomon is now the Director of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and serves as principal investigator for NASA’s MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) mission. MESSENGER is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury and is currently completing a second extended mission at the Solar System’s inner-most planet. Additional NASA missions ...

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  1. NAI’s New Teams: A Preview of the Research


    Please join us in welcoming the new members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), winners of the CAN7 competition: the SETI Institute in Mountain View, CA; NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA; the University of California, Riverside; NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA; NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD; the University of Montana, Missoula; and the University of Colorado, Boulder.

    Each interdisciplinary team will bring unique capabilities and expertise to NASA’s Astrobiology Program, and the collaborative structure of the NAI will provide for productive interactions not only across these teams, but ...

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  1. NASA Selects New Science Teams for Astrobiology Research


    NASA has awarded five-year grants totaling almost $50 million to seven research teams nationwide to study the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.

    “With the Curiosity rover characterizing the potential habitability of Mars, the Kepler mission discovering new planets outside our solar system, and Mars 2020 on the horizon, these research teams will provide the critical interdisciplinary expertise to help interpret data from these missions and future astrobiology-focused missions, “ said Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

    Average funding for each team will be approximately $8 million. The interdisciplinary teams will become members ...

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  1. Life’s Wrinkles in the Sand


    Wrinkle structures reproduced in the laboratory​. by moving microbial aggregates on a bed of loose fine sand. The total width of the image is 30 cm. Credit: Mariotti et al. 2014 Wrinkle structures reproduced in the laboratory​ by moving microbial aggregates on a bed of loose fine sand. The total width of the image is 30 cm. Credit: Mariotti et al. 2014

    A new study shows how wrinkle structures can form on a bed of sand when waves and microorganisms are present. Wrinkle structures on sandy bed surfaces are rare on Earth today, but were more common in ancient sedimentary environments. These ancient sediments often have trace fossils and imprints of early animals, and appear in the geological record after some of the largest mass extinctions on Earth.

    Some scientists have ...

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  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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