Artist’s impression of Roche lobe overflow in a planet. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Frank Reddy
Researchers with the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory Lead Team at the University of Washington have described how mini-Neptune planets could become viable for life around M-Dwarf stars.
M-Dwarfs are cooler than the Sun, meaning any habitable planets around them would have to be much closer to their host star. However, planets in such systems face many hazardous conditions, particularly in the early stages of formation, that could make it difficult for life to take hold.
The study, published in the ...
Georgia Tech graduate student Sheng-Sheng Yu holds a sample that has been subjected to repeated cycles of wet-dry conditions. From amino acids and hydroxy acids, the process results in a mixture of polyesters and peptides containing as many as 14 units. Credit: John Toon, Georgia Tech
Anyone who’s ever noticed a water puddle drying in the sun has seen an environment that may have driven the type of chemical reactions that scientists believe were critical to the formation of life on the early Earth.
Research at Georgia Institute of Technology reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition demonstrates that ...August 11, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
If starlight passing through a planetary atmosphere is blocked by clouds or haze, the resulting spectrum is flat and featureless, and no molecules or potential biomarkers are visible. Credit: Kempton, E.M.R., 2014, Nature, 513, 493. Used with permission
If life exists on planets beyond our Solar System, its presence could be obscured by the haze and clouds in the planet’s atmosphere.
Even next generation telescopes — such as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as well as ground-based telescopes like the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) — will have a hard time penetrating such hazy worlds ...August 6, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Operation IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger took the photo of Taylor Valley,, one of the Dry Valleys of Antarctica where snow and ice are rare. Credit: NASA
The cold permafrost of Antarctica houses bacteria that thrive at temperatures below freezing, where water is icy and nutrients are few and far between. Oligotrophs, slow-growing organisms that prefer environments where nutrients are scarce, could provide clues as to how life could exist in the permafrost of Mars. In this vein, scientists have been studying the lethargic bacteria from the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, a row of snow-free valleys that ...
A picture of the aluminum plate with a chemical deposit on it. Credits: Karen Smith/NASA Goddard
Vitamin B3 could have been made on icy dust grains in space, and later delivered to Earth by meteorites and comets, according to new laboratory experiments by a team of NASA-funded researchers. Vitamin B3, also known as niacin or nicotinic acid, is used to build NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which is essential to metabolism and probably ancient in origin. The result supports a theory that the origin of life may have been assisted by a supply of biologically important molecules produced in space ...August 3, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Stalked barnacles from the vent fields at the Kawio Barat volcano, Western Pacific. Credit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010
Barnacles — a type of marine crustacean — are highly adaptable animals. Unlike many other groups that prefer quieter waters, they like areas with a lot of activity, are hardy against dry spells that sometimes occur in tidal zones, and can even persist in waters that are becoming more acidic due to human pollution.
Our solar system is full of icy moons – for example, Jupiter’s Europa or Saturn’s Enceladus — that likely have global oceans under their crusts ...
Air showers ensuing from very-high-energy cosmic rays can enter Earth’s atmosphere from multiple directions. Credit: Simon Swordy/NASA
Previously, studies have found that airplane crews at high altitude are exposed to potentially harmful levels of radiation from cosmic rays. But could these cosmic rays pose hazards even at sea level?
A new NASA-funded investigation has found radiation from solar events is too weak to cause worry at ground level. Results have just been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research and hailed as one of three “Editor’s Choice” publications for the first quarter of 2015 by Space Weather ...July 28, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
This artist's concept compares Earth (left) to the new planet, called Kepler-452b, which is about 60 percent larger in diameter. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle
NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another “Earth.”
The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone — the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting ...July 23, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Rocks at Soudan Underground Mine State Park, Minnesota, show banding caused by layers of different minerals in a sample 2.7 billion years old. Credit: University of Wisconsin-Madison, http://news.wisc.edu/23863
A new study identifies sources of iron found in Banded Iron Formations (or BIFs) that were formed 2.5 billion years ago. The BIFs are sedimentary deposits formed at the bottom of Precambrian oceans on Earth, and contain distinctive layers of material. BIFs are reddish in color due to the iron they contain, and these deposits are a major source of iron used by humankind today.
Previously ...July 23, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Cassini imaging scientists used views like this one to help them identify the source locations for individual jets spurting ice particles, water vapor and trace organic compounds from the surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Credit: NASA/JPL
The discovery of plumes at worlds like Enceladus raises an intriguing question about how best to explore these small, icy bodies. In a recent presentation called “Europa and beyond: Adaptive robotic exploration of planetary plumes,” Nathalie Cabrol of the SETI Institute described a 'Swiss army knife’ approach in developing instruments and exploration strategies for icy moons in the Solar ...
As New Horizons closes in on Pluto and Charon, it may be able to detect signs that one or both objects boast icy plumes, either now or in their past. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
A new study of objects in the outer reaches of the solar system suggests that bodies like Pluto and Charon have the potential to support eruptions of icy material. The research indicates that if cryo-volcanism has occurred on Pluto, Charon’s surface could retain evidence of such events.
The research was published online in the journal ...
Audiences pack the Grand Hall for the AbSciCon 2015 Regional Heat of the FameLab USA competition. Credit: NASA Astrobiology
Astrobiologists gathered in Chicago, Illinois, from June 15-19th for the 2015 Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon). Researchers from a multitude of disciplines, and representing institutions from around the world, used the conference as a forum to report new discoveries, share data, initiate and advance collaborative efforts, plan new projects, and educate the next generation of astrobiologists.
“AbSciCon reflects the importance of astrobiology in supporting NASA’s current and ongoing missions,” said Mary Voytek, Program Scientist for Astrobiology at NASA.
Peter Doran, the ...July 17, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Sunset on Saturn’s moon Titan reveals the atmosphere around the moon as seen from the night side with NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI
Titan is a mysterious orange-socked moon of Saturn that is exciting to astrobiologists because it has some of the same kinds of chemicals that were precursors to life on Earth. Its atmosphere is 95 percent nitrogen, but it also has a tad bit of methane, predominantly close to the surface.
Titan’s methane is thought to be less than a half billion years old, leading astrobiologists to wonder what Titan ...
AbGradCon 2015 webcast (July 20-22) available at http://abgradcon.org/remote.html and http://saganet.org/page/saganlive
The NAI-sponsored Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) 2015 will be held on July 19-23, 2015 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Those unable to attend in person can still participate via live webcast. The stream will start at 8AM CDT on July 20, 21, and 22 at http://abgradcon.org/remote.html. You can also view the webcast and join in a live chat on the SAGANet site: http://saganet.org/page/saganlive.
AbGradCon offers a unique opportunity for graduate students and early career ...July 15, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
The "Dynamic Duo" photo of Pluto and Charon taken by the New Horizons spacecraft on July 8, 2015 from 3.7 million miles away. Credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI
Excitement builds as the public waits for the New Horizons spacecraft to fly by Pluto on July 14, 2015. The flyby will create a landmark in our understanding of Pluto’s atmosphere, geology, and other surface conditions and increase our understanding of what lies further on in the Kuiper Belt.
Because extremely cold temperatures make present-day volcanic activity and circulation of biogenic elements on the icy surface impossible, neither Pluto nor its moons are ...July 13, 2015 / Written by: Miki Huynh
- October 16 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 2016 Gordon Research Conference & Seminar "Origins of Life"
- October 20 - Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) Meeting
- October 23 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Paneth Kolloquium: First 10 Million Years of the Solar System
- October 28 - International Meeting: Missions to Habitable Worlds
- October 31 - Application Deadline for 2016 Vatican Observatory Summer School in Astrophyics on Water in the Solar System and Beyond
- October 31 - Application Deadline for the 2016 Exploration Postdoctoral Fellowships at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University
- November 1 - Geological Society of America (GSA) 2015 Annual Meeting
- November 1 - Application Deadline for NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Program Fellowshi[
- November 2 - K2 Science Conference (K2SciCon)
- November 5 - Application Deadline for 2016 Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowships
- November 11 - Paneth Kolloquium: First 10 Million Years of the Solar System
- November 16 - French Astrobiology Society Young Researchers Congress