Eric Herbst. Credit: University of Virginia
On March 10, Eric Herbst of the University of Virginia will present the next Astrobiology Director’s Seminar: The Formation of Complex Organic Molecules in Star-Forming Regions.
Please join us at 11 am PDT. Connection details are available here.March 5, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
New light has been shed on our understanding of Earth’s early crust thanks to a new study in Nature Geoscience by NAI-funded researchers at the University of Wisconsin.
During the Hadean eon, between Earth’s formation and 4 billion years ago, the Earth differentiated into a core, mantle and crust. The planet was also resurfaced by bombardment of planetesimals and asteroids, as well as some form of plate tectonics. As a result, few rocks of Hadean age remain. Every scrap of material older than 4 billion years is therefore of great interest.
The oldest preserved crust was previously thought ...
An artist's impression of a planet-forming disk. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)
A team of astrobiologists supported by the NAI has shed new light on the mechanisms that fractionate carbon isotopes in planetary bodies. Their work shows that significant fractionation of carbon isotopes in nature may be the result of diffusion in iron-nickel metal, which is found inside planets and meteorites.
Carbon is all around us. Life on Earth is carbon based, but the element is also abundant in the composition of planets and meteorites. By studying how different isotopes of carbon are formed, astrobiologists are able to ...March 3, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Tullis Onstott of Princeton University opens a borehole in a section of rock wall in a South African mine. Image credit: Lisa M. Pratt / The Trustees of Indiana University / NASA / National Science Foundation
It seems like anywhere you look on Earth, microorganisms are there – even kilometers beneath the Earth’s surface where sunlight never reaches. Scientists are just beginning to understand Earth’s deep subsurface biosphere, but a new study supported by the NAI might help determine just how far down microbes can go on our planet. The results could also shed light on the potential for life’s origins ...February 27, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Effective April 7, 2014, Michael Meyer will serve on a one-year detail assignment as the interim director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
NAI is a virtual, distributed organization of competitively-selected teams that integrate astrobiology research and training programs in concert with the national and international science communities. It is supported by the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
NAI’s missions are to carry out, support, and catalyze collaborative, interdisciplinary research; to train the next generation of astrobiology researchers; to provide scientific and technical leadership on astrobiology investigations ...February 24, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Tom Pierson of the SETI Institute. Credit: SETI
Tom Pierson, who founded the SETI Institute and went on to become its Chief Executive Officer for most of the organization’s first thirty years, died on February 20 of cancer. He had been on medical leave since 2012.
Under Pierson’s guidance, the Institute grew from a tiny, narrowly focused research center with a handful of employees to its current status: an internationally known organization that is home to more than 130 scientists, educators, and support staff.
Thomas Pierson was presented the Distinguished Public Service Medal by the National Aeronautics and ...February 22, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Please join us in congratulating Moh El-Naggar, from NAI’s team at the University of Southern California, who recently received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.
Moh El-Naggar is an assistant professor of physics at the University of Southern California. El-Naggar received a B.S. degree from Lehigh University (2001), followed by M.S. (2002) and Ph.D. (2007) degrees from the division of engineering and applied science of the California Institute of Technology, where he was an Applied Materials, Inc. fellow. As a biophysicist, El-Naggar is a pioneer in studying energy conversion and charge transmission at ...February 21, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
A special “Winter School” for early career astrobiologists was held from January 1-14, 2014 in Hawai’i. The school was co-sponsored by the NAI team at the University of Hawai’i and the Nordic Network for Astrobiology.
The program combined lectures, field excursions, and extended discussion time, and combined astronomy, biology, and geology via three main venues: Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, UH Institute for Astronomy in Hilo, HI, and the UH main campus in Manoa.
30 participants from 8 countries joined 33 speakers and staff, also from around the world, to take part in 29 hours of lectures, 16 ...February 21, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
The process of collision and accretion created the four rocky, or terrestrial, planets of our inner solar system — Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Credit: NASA Discovery Program
Astrobiologists supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute have assessed the effects of impacts on the crust of the early Earth. The research could help determine whether or not evidence of such violent events in our planet’s early history could still be found in the geological record.
During the first billion years after its formation, the inner solar system was crowded with debris. This resulted in frequent collisions, which not only played a ...February 20, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
NAI’s team at RPI has been hosting the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp for the last several years. Here is a link to the NPR show To the Best of Our Knowledge featuring a digest of last year’s camp in which teams of middle-school students designed missions to search for life on Mars. It includes interviews with students from the winning team and their parents, prefaced by a superb introduction by Dr. Wayne Roberge. The camp is a vital component of the E/PO program of the NY Center for Astrobiology, and this show does an excellent ...February 18, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
The image to the left shows Jennifer Glass working in a chamber where she can control the oxygen levels to mimic the deep sea environment. On the right is an example of marine gas hydrates on the sea floor. Credit: Rob Felt (left image); US Department of Energy (right image)
On March 3, 2014, Dr. Jennifer Glass of the Georgia Institute of Technology (GA Tech) will present the second in our series of talks from alumni of the NASA Astrobiology NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP). In her talk, “Microbes, Methane and Metals: Insights From Geochemistry, Omics and Single Cell Imaging,” Glass ...February 11, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Water forms on interplanetary dust particles due to space-weathering from the solar wind. Hydrogen ions in the solar wind react with oxygen atoms in the dust to form tiny water-filled vesicles(blue). Credit: John Bradley, UH SOEST/ LLNL
Could Space Dust have Delivered Life’s Ingredients to Earth?
For the first time, scientists have detected water molecules on the surface of interplanetary dust particles. The water forms in tiny bubbles when solar wind irradiates and damages the dust grains floating through space.
Previous research had shown that space dust also contains organic carbon—another key ingredient for life. Taken together ...
Voyager Views Titan's Haze. There is a lot of interesting chemistry occurring in Titan's dense atmosphere. Credit: Voyager Project, JPL, NASA
Henderson (Jim) Cleaves of the Carnegie Institution of Washington will present the next talk in the NAI Director’s Seminar Series on February 10 at 11:00 AM PST.
Amino Acid Analysis of Titan Tholins and Comparison With Other Prebiotic Reaction Systems
Titan’s atmospheric chemistry produces a host of discrete organic chemical products. It is likewise well known than Miller-Urey type reactions produce a host of complex discrete organic products. We have examined various complex reaction ...February 4, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Fossil remains of Ediacara biota. Credit: Courtesy of Marc Laflamme, University of Toronto
A team of researchers, including members of the MIT Node of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), have revealed new insight into why organisms on the ancient Earth began to grow larger. Life began on our planet as single-cell microorganisms, but today the Earth supports a diverse array of multicellular life. The new study could help explain the advantages that early organisms gained from an increase in size.
The study, published in Current Biology, shows how primitive organisms called Ediacara became larger to help access nutrients in ocean ...February 4, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
This equipment is used by Goddard's Astrobiology Analytical Lab to analyze very small samples. On the right is the nanoelectrospray emitter, which gives sample molecules an electric charge and transfers them to the inlet of the mass spectrometer (left), which identifies the molecules by their mass.
NAI-funded astrobiologists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have successfully completed a proof-of-concept study of a new technique to analyze extremely small samples of material such as from asteroids, comets, and IDPs for the presence of biomolecules such as amino acids, components used to make DNA, and other biologically important molecules like ...February 3, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
- Mar 10 - Director's Seminar: The Formation of Complex Organic Molecules in Star-Forming Regions
- Mar 17-21 - Lunar and Planetary Science Conference
- Mar 17-21 - Search for Life Beyond the Solar System: Exoplanets, Biosignatures & Instruments
- April 1 - Application Deadline for NASA Astrobiology Early Career Collaboration Award
- NAI CAN7