Image Source: NASA
Source: [University of Washington]
Scientists have developed a habitability index to rank exoplanets and their potential for increasing our knowledge of life in the universe, described in the forthcoming research paper, “Comparative Habitability of Transiting Exoplanets,” to be published in the Astrophysics Journal. The ranking system created at the Virtual Planetary Laboratory (VPL) will help narrow down which exoplanet candidates in a habitability zone present the best transit data and planetary properties for future observation.
A press release was published by UW Today.
The study was funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute.October 23, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Transmission X-ray image of RSES 61-18.8 with graphite indicated. Credit: Bell et al. (2015), www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1517557112
New evidence suggests that life existed on Earth 300 million years earlier than previously thought. Researchers examined heavy minerals known as zircons, which formed from ancient molten rock. Zircons are durable and are capable of capturing samples of their local environment when they form. Dark specks contained in some of the zircons were studied with Raman spectroscopy, and the findings indicate that the specks could be the remnants of microorganisms from 4.1 billion years ago ...October 22, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Louis Allamandola receives the 2015 Presidential Rank of Meritorious Senior Professional. Image source: NASA.
On October 7, 2015, Louis Allamandola was given the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Senior Professional during the 2015 Presidental Rank and NASA Honor Awards Ceremony for Ames Research Center. The award is one of the highest honors granted by the US government.
Allamondola is the founder of the Astrophysics and Astrochemistry Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center, and he is known for his revolutionary work creating laboratory settings that mimic conditions in deep space that have lead to increased understanding of the chemistry, composition and spectroscopy ...October 19, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
An artist concept image of where seven carefully-selected instruments will be located on NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. The instruments will conduct unprecedented science and exploration technology investigations on the Red Planet as never before. Image Credit: NASA
NASA Television speaks with Abigail Allwood of NASA JPL about astrobiology on Mars and the scientific payload of the upcoming Mars 2020 rover. The interview is part of The Real Martians series, where NASA highlights the science and technology behind the agency’s next 'giant leap’ to the red planet.
Source: [NASA]October 16, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
A common borate mineral on Earth, colemanite. The Tohoku University Museum collection. Credit: Yoshihiro Furukawa/Tohoku University
Inspired by previous work on chemistry’s 'water problem’ and 'asphalt problem,’ a team of researchers has provided new insight into the conditions in which nucleosides combine with phosphate to form nucleoside phosphates, a key set of molecules found in RNA.
Chemistry’s 'water problem’ refers to the fact that nucleoside phosphates do not form in water because hydrolysis is a more thermodynamically stable reaction. Decades ago, scientists addressed this problem by using formamide as a solvent instead of water.
The 'asphalt problem’ refers ...October 15, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Illustration of the interior of Saturn's moon Enceladus showing a global liquid water ocean between its rocky core and icy crust. Image Credit: JPL
Starting today, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will begin a series of three close encounters with Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus. Images from the flyby are expected to begin arriving two days later, providing the first close-up view of the moon’s north polar region.
Since Cassini’s 2005 discovery of continually-erupting fountains of icy material on Enceladus, the Saturn moon has become one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for present-day habitable environments. Mission ...October 14, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
On September 29, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing entitled Astrobiology and the Search for Life Beyond Earth in the Next Decade. The hearing covered the scientific methods and recent discoveries in astrobiology, addressed the prospects of finding life beyond Earth, and provided an overview of NASA astrobiology programs and the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (“NExSS”) initiative. Testimonies were provided by Dr. Ellen Stofan of NASA, Dr. Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University, Dr. Jacob Bean of the University of Chicago and Dr. Andrew Siemion of SETI Research Center at UC Berkeley.
Source: [Committee on Science ...October 14, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
(1) The fictional Ares 3 landing site in southern Acidalia Planitia. (2) Carl Sagan Memorial Station (Landing site of the NASA Pathfinder mission) (3) Marwth Vallis (4) Meridiani Planum and the site of NASA's Opportunity rover (5) Schiaparelli crater
Mars has been a focus of astrobiology and exobiology research since the early days of NASA. Even before the invention of the telescope, Mars captured the imagination of scientists and philosophers who were interested in life’s potential beyond Earth.
With the Viking landers in the 1970s, Mars became the target of NASA’s first dedicated mission to search for life in ...October 12, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
The 2015 Astrobiology Strategy Identifies Priority Research for the NASA Astrobiology Program in the Next Decade
Over the past two years 800 members of the astrobiology community have contributed, through in person meetings, white papers, a series of webinars and reviews, to define a new strategy for the next decade of astrobiology research. Mary Voytek, the Senior Scientist for Astrobiology, and Michael New, the Astrobiology Discipline Scientist, described the goal of the endeavor to create an “inspirational and aspirational” document. The strategy will replace the 2008 Astrobiology Roadmap.
The six major research areas in the field of astrobiology described are:
October 9, 2015 / Posted by: Shige Abe
- Identifying abiotic sources of organic compounds
- Synthesis and function of macromolecules in the origin of life ...
To celebrate the men and women who have made great and lasting contributions to astrobiology, the NASA Astrobiology Institute has put together a film paying tribute to twelve scientists and leaders who have recently passed away. These individuals are remembered not only for their enduring work in the field, but as astrobiologists who touched the lives of many during their lifetime.October 9, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Calling all undergrads and grad students!
The NASA Astrobiology Debates Online Speech Competition (University Division) is an online speech competition in which U.S. college and university undergraduate and graduate students from across the nation will research, deliver, and upload original speeches responding to the 2015-16 NASA Astrobiology Debates Topic:
Resolved: An overriding ethical obligation to protect and preserve extraterrestrial microbial life and ecosystems should be incorporated into international law.
Submissions will be judged based on the quality of scholarship and arguments, originality and creativity, and presentation. The competition is now OPEN and students may submit their speeches at anytime ...October 7, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Aurelia, sp.1 (moon jellyfish). Photo source: Mike Dawson/UC Merced.
The animal phylum known as cnidaria includes an abundant and colorful variety of anenomes, jellyfish, corals and hydroids—all categorized as having tentacles with stinging cells for defense and capturing prey.
It turns out that across the life stages of even just one species of jellyfish, tentacles can present a great number of functional and anatomical differences. In “Structural and Developmental Disparity in the Tentacles of the Moon Jellyfish Aurelia sp.1,” researchers examined two types of tentacles of the moon jellyfish: the oral tentacles of the polyp (post-larval ...October 6, 2015 / Written by: Miki Huynh
Dr. David Blake presents the Chemistry and Mineralogy Instrument (CheMin) currently operating on NASA’s Curiosity rover, helping scientists to study the mineral composition of Mars’ surface.
Blake is the principal investigator for the CheMin project and serves as a senior scientist in the Exobiology branch of NASA Ames Research Center. A previous interview in which he discusses his work in astrobiology, exobiology, CheMin and the Curiosity mission can be found in the Astrobiology Magazine.
The video is part of NASA’s My Martian Moment series.October 2, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
The Institute for Planets and Life presents the Planets, Life, and the Universe Lecture Series, an opportunity to hear scientists share their insights on current topics of interest in astrobiology. More information on the series schedule and links to live and archived webcasts are available at: http://www.stsci.edu/institute/smo/ipl/lecture.
Series Schedule (all lectures are 12:00PM-2:30PM EST)
Oct 2 – Steven Benner (Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution) – Searching for, or Creating Ourselves, a Second Example of Life
Nov 6 – Sarah Hörst (Johns Hopkins University, Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences) – ...September 30, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Overhead image of smoke from the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcanic eruption and nearby lake and mountains acquired by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite. The gray area inside the lake is floating pumice. Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory
During and following the eruption of the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano in southern Chile in 2011, large quantities of ash and pumice filled the air and landed into neighboring lakes. Small pieces of pumice in Lake Espejo and Lake Nahuel Huapi stayed afloat for months to years after landing, and researchers who examined these two lakes found that the ...September 29, 2015 / Written by: Miki Huynh
- December 1 - Application Deadline for Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology
- December 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for International Conference on Permafrost 2016 Session: Planetary Permafrost and Earth Analogues
- December 11 - Deadline for VEXAG Student Travel Grants for International Venus Science Conference
- December 11 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Water in the Universe: From Clouds to Oceans
- December 14 - American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting
- December 14 - Participation/Poster Deadline for 4th ELSI Symposium - Three Experiments in Biological Origins: Early Earth, Venus and Mars
- December 31 - Deadline for Application for Membership on NASA’s Science Definition Team for Ice Giants Mission Studies
- January 3 - Application Deadline for Geobiology Gordon Research Conference: Reconstructing Processes from Genes to the Geologic Record
- January 15 - Application Deadline for Exploration Science Summer Intern Program