Deep-sea microorganisms are unchanged over more than 2 billion years. Credit: UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life
Scientists have discovered 1.8 billion-year-old fossil microorganisms in fossilized deep-sea mud from Western Australia. It appears that the sulfur-cycling microbial community is almost identical to microbial fossils from 2.3 billion-years-ago, and to modern communities found off the coast of South America.
The stability of these communities could be evidence of a long-term lack of evolution, which reflects the lack of change in their environment. This would be an example of a theory known as evolution ...February 26, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Passionate about science? Love to communicate…or want to learn how? Missed the in-person regional heats? THIS is your chance. Join us for the FameLab USA Season 3 Online Competition!
Unlike our in-person events, in this heat you will record yourself giving a 3-minute, powerpoint-free presentation, create a YouTube video of it, and submit that to us no later than March 16th. Then join us for the live, online judging event on March 18th to receive feedback from the judges. We are also planning a live, online science communications workshop, still TBA.
More info, and plenty of how-to’s, tips ...February 25, 2015 / Written by: Daniella Scalice
Lisa Kaltenegger, Cornell University
A telescope will soon allow astronomers to probe the atmosphere of Earthlike exoplanets for signs of life. To prepare, Lisa Kaltenegger and her team at Cornell’s Institute for Pale Blue Dots are modeling the atmospheric fingerprints for hundreds of potential alien worlds. They are building a database of atmospheric fingerprints that will then be used as “ID cards” to guide the study of exoplanet atmospheres with the James Webb Space Telescope and other future large telescopes.
Kaltenegger described her approach in a talk for the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Director Seminar Series last December.
Bill Bottke of the Department of Space Studies at the Southwest Research Institute. Credit: SwRI
Bill Bottke of Southwest Research Institute will be presenting the next NAI Director’s Seminar on February 23, 2015, at 1pm Pacific Standard Time. A link to the web broadcast will be available here at 12:45pm PST on Feb 23.
Bottke’s talk, “Early Solar System Bombardment and Earth’s Habitability,” will discuss insights about the bombardment history of the early Earth based on a new bombardment model for the inner Solar System that stretches from Mercury to the asteroid belt.
For more information ...February 19, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Online course, May 15 to June 30, 2015. Credit: Ilustre Colegio Oficial de GEÓLOGOS
A new online astrobiology course in Spanish, “Catástrofes Naturales y Eventos de Extinción” (Natural Catastrophes and Extinction Events), will be taking place this year from May 15 to June 30. The course consists of three Modules with ten thematic units. Ten instructors will cover a wide range topics relevant to catastrophes and extinction events on Earth.
For more information, click: here.
A promotional video for the course can be viewed here.
The new course follows last year’s successful online course, “Planetology and Astrobiology,” which was ...February 17, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
True color and feature-highlighted photos of Europa. The bright feature towards the lower right of the disk is the 45 km diameter crater Pwyll. Credit: NASA
Powerful radio signals that Jupiter generates could be used to help researchers scan its giant moons for oceans that could be home to extraterrestrial life, according to a recent study submitted to the journal Icarus.
The research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with NASA and funded through the Internal Research and Technology Development program.
Europa is being put under the spotlight this week at ...
Phylogenetic relationships of dsrB sequences from borehole 1025C and U1301A fluids. Robador et al., 2014
A new study supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the Astrobiology program is shedding light on microbial communities that live in low-temperature fluids just beneath the ocean crust. The largest aquifer system on Earth exists beneath the crust at the bottom of our planet’s oceans, yet life in this remote environment has remained relatively unexplored for decades. By drilling into the ocean floor, scientists retrieved low-temperature (<100°C) fluids from the environment. In the samples they found evidence of sulfate reducing microbes over a range of temperatures.
The results suggest that sulfate reducing microbes could be responsible for the removal of organic matter in ...100°c)>February 9, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
In the muddy sediments beneath the deep sea, NAI-funded astrobiologists have found ancient communities of microbes that have remained virtually unchanged for 2.3 billion years.
Researchers say these microscopic organisms are an example of “extreme evolutionary stasis” and represent the greatest lack of evolution ever seen.
They may also, paradoxically, prove that Darwin’s theory of evolution is true.
“If evolution is a product of changes in the physical and biological environment, and there are no changes in the physical and biological environment, then there will be no evolution,” said William Schopf, a paleobiologist at UCLA.
He calls it ...
NASA seeks a new Director for the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). The ideal candidate will be an internationally recognized scientist with proven experience in leading or managing large interdisciplinary research programs or projects, possessed with a vision for leading the Institute into the future. Applicants for this position should have a broad scientific perspective on astrobiology, experience in conducting interdisciplinary scientific research, and demonstrated skills needed to harness the strengths of disparate research communities towards a greater goal. S/he should understand how to grow a research endeavor and respond to changing budget climates while focusing on maximizing the scientific ...February 5, 2015 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
Super-Earths And Life is a course offered by HarvardX about alien life, how we search for it, and what this teaches us about our place in the universe.
In the past decade astronomers have made incredible advances in the discovery of planets outside our solar system. Thirty years ago, we knew only of the planets in our own solar system. Now we know of thousands circling nearby stars.
Meanwhile, biologists have gained a strong understanding of how life evolved on our own planet, all the way back to the earliest cells. We can describe how simple molecules can assemble themselves ...February 4, 2015 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Students in the Habitable Worlds course learn what goes into making a planet. Credit: Anbar/Horodyskyj
NAI-funded astrobiologists and educators at Arizona State University have made great strides in online education. Using themes in astrobiology, their Habitable Worlds course brings critical thinking skills to non-science majors…and the world is taking notice.
Astrobiologist Aims to Make Science Education More Interactive
I remember battling sleepiness as I slouched in a large lecture hall, squinting to make out the writing on the blackboard during my freshman introductory physics course in college. My difficulty staying alert in class was not the fault of ...
New from the PlanetQuest group at JPL, these gorgeous posters depict images of travel to worlds orbiting stars other than our own Sun! Just as mid-century travel posters enticed would-be travelers to exotic locales such as the islands of the Caribbean and South Pacific, we are similarly beckoned to consider places beyond our imagination – beyond our Solar System!
Source: [JPL]January 26, 2015 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Some of the purported “swimmers” in the Cave of the Swimmers, Egypt. Credit: NASA Photo/Chris McKay
Seven thousand year-old rock paintings in the Sahara desert have, somewhat serendipitously, helped uncover evidence of ancient lake beds. Researchers discovered the mineral remnants of the lake while studying a region well-known for its rock art. The research — presented in the Journal of African Earth Sciences — was partly funded by the NASA Astrobiology Program.
2015 International Year of Light. Background Image: Image Credit: Marek Mís
A new international exhibition, “LIGHT: Beyond the Bulb,” has been launched to celebrate the 2015 International Year of Light.
Together with SPIE (the international society for optics and photonics), the Chandra X-ray Center/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory are leading Light: Beyond the Bulb for the International Year of Light 2015 (IYL2015). LIGHT: Beyond the Bulb is a cornerstone project for the International Astronomical Union. IYL2015 was declared by the United Nations and is supported by UNESCO.
Source: [lightexhibit.org]January 19, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Dr. Alberto Behar. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The Astrobiology community deeply mourns the loss of Dr. Alberto Behar, a JPL employee, explorer, colleague, and friend to many. He died in the crash of a small plane on Friday, January 10, 2015, near Van Nuys Airport in the Los Angeles area.
During his 23-year career at JPL, Dr. Behar specialized in robotics for exploring extreme environments on Earth and other planets. He played a key role in developing in situ robotic systems for measuring ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland using submarines, ice rovers and boats. He also participated in the ...January 14, 2015 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
- March 30 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Geobiology in Space Exploration (GESE) Workshop on Extraterrestrial Subsurface Exploration
- March 31 - Application Deadline for 2014 Nininger Meteorite Award
- March 31 - Abstract Deadline for 2nd Planetary Data Workshop
- March 31 - Application Deadline for 2015 Santander Summer School - The Origin of Life: From Monomers to Cells
- March 31 - NASA Office of Education Scholarship and Research Opportunities
- March 31 - Abstract Submission Deadline for The Origin of Life - Second Conference on History and Philosophy of Astrobiology
- April 1 - Application Review Begins for Postdoctoral Teaching Associate in Mineralogy - University of Tennesee
- April 1 - Grant Applications for Young Participants (PhD. and Postdocs) Due for IAU XXIX General Assembly
- April 1 - Application Deadline for the Spring 2015 Gerald A. Soffen Memorial Fund Travel Grants
- April 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for iCubeSat 2015 - 4th Interplanetary CubeSat Workshop
- April 1 - Application Deadline for the NASA Astrobiology Program Student Early Career Collaboration Awards
- April 2 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Goldschmidt 2015
- April 3 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 12th International Planetary Probe Workshop (IPPW-12)
- April 7 - Workshop on Venus Science Priorities for Laboratory Measurements and Instrument Definition
- April 9 - Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG) MEETING #12
- April 13 - Abstract Submission Deadline for NASA's Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) 2nd Annual NASA Exploration Science Forum (ESF)
- April 24 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 2nd International Congress on Stratigraphy (STRATI 2015)
- April 29 - Abstract Submission Deadline for European Planetary Science Congress 2015
- April 30 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 3rd International Workshop on Microbial Life Under Extreme Energy Limitation
- April 30 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Comparative Climates of Terrestrial Planets II: Understanding How Climate Systems Work (CCTP2)
- May 3 - Joint Assembly AGU, GAC, MAC, CGU
- May 4 - Comparative Tectonics and Geodynamics of Venus, Earth, and Rocky Exoplanets
- May 13 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 78th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society