Scientists iat MIT documented the first extracellular vesicles produced by ocean microbes. The arrow in the photo above points to one of these spherical vesicles in this scanning electron micrograph showing Prochlorococcus cyanobacteria. Image Credit: Steven Biller/Chisholm Lab
Marine cyanobacteria — tiny ocean plants that produce oxygen and make organic carbon using sunlight and CO2 — are primary engines of Earth’s biogeochemical and nutrient cycles. They nourish other organisms through the provision of oxygen and with their own body mass, which forms the base of the ocean food chain.
Now NASA Astrobiology Institute-funded scientists at MIT have discovered another dimension ...January 24, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Dwarf Planet Ceres, Artist's Impression
Scientists using the Herschel space observatory have made the first definitive detection of water vapor on the largest and roundest object in the asteroid belt, dwarf planet Ceres.
“This is the first time water vapor has been unequivocally detected on Ceres or any other object in the asteroid belt and provides proof that Ceres has an icy surface and an atmosphere,” said Michael Küppers of ESA in Spain, lead author of a paper in the journal Nature.
Herschel is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission with important NASA contributions. Data from the infrared observatory ...
A TextureCam analysis of a Mars image is able to distinguish rocks from soil. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech/Cornell
Researchers supported by the ASTID element of NASA’s Astrobiology program are designing algorithms and instruments that could help future robotic missions make their own decisions about surface sites to explore on other planets. One such instrument is the TextureCam, which is currently being tested with Mars in mind. The technology will improve the efficiency of planetary missions, allowing rovers to collect more data and perform more experiments in less time.
“Roughly speaking, instead of telling the rover to “drive over ...January 23, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Panels from Astrobiology: The Story of our Search for Life in the Universe, Issue #4. Credit: NASA Astrobiology
Issue #4 maintains the gorgeous look and feel of the series, and continues the captivating story of Exo and Astrobiology. This installment explores astrobiology’s role in missions to the outer Solar System. See how science helped shape the exploration of gas giants and icy worlds beyond our system’s main asteroid belt.
While spacecraft plied the distant corners of ...January 21, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Sara Walker, assistant professor at Arizona State University. Credit: BEYOND, ASU
On February 3, 2014, Sara Walker of Arizona State University (ASU) will present the first in a series of seminars from alumni of the NASA Astrobiology NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP). In her talk, “Information Hierarchies, Chemical Evolution and the Transition From Non-Living to Living Matter,” Walker will discuss topics related to the emergence of life… and how to define ‘almost life.’
Sara Walker is an assistant professor at the BEYOND Center in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU. Walker specializes in theoretical physics and astrobiology, and ...January 17, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Mary Voytek, Sara Seager and Steven Dick discuss the science of astrobiology with the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Credit: US House of Representatives
On December 4, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a special hearing entitled, “Astrobiology: The Search for Biosignatures in our Solar System and Beyond.” The purpose of the hearing was not to develop policy, but instead to share information about the current state of astrobiology in the United States and to address the committee’s interests in NASA’s research on the search ...January 17, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
A simulated view of Opportunity Inside 'Endurance Crater.' Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell
This month, NASA is celebrating 10 years of amazing discoveries by the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission. The twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on Mars in January of 2004 to begin a 90 day mission. A decade later, Opportunity is still collecting valuable scientific data on the surface of Mars.
Opportunity touched down on Mars’ Meridiani Planum on January 25, 2004 (UTC). To celebrate the anniversary, several activities are taking place throughout the month of January. To begin the events, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum ...January 15, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Dr. David Grinspoon delivered the 2013 Carl Sagan Lecture presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. An outgrowth of his work as the first NASA—Library of Congress Baruch S. Blumberg Chair in Astrobiology, the talk is entitled “Terra Sapiens: The Role of Science in Fostering a Wisely Managed Earth.”
Click here to watch a video of Dr. Grinspoon’s lecture.January 13, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Decisions have been made regarding the NAI CAN 7 Step-1 proposals. Of the 56 proposals received, 38 were “encouraged” and 18 were “discouraged.” Proposers were notified December 20, 2013. Click here for links to all the CAN 7 official documentation.
Source: [NASA NSPIRES]January 10, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
NOVA has just released a new special focusing on Kepler, the discovery and characterization of exoplanets, and astrobiology in general. Click here for more information and to stream the video.
It’s a golden age for planet hunters: NASA’s Kepler mission has identified more than 3,500 potential planets orbiting stars beyond our Sun. Some of them, like a planet called Kepler-22b, might even be able to harbor life. How did we come upon this distant planet?
Combining startling animation with input from expert astrophysicists and astrobiologists, Alien Planets Revealed takes viewers on a journey along with the Kepler ...January 9, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Chart of Kepler planet candidates as of January 2014.
More than three-quarters of the planet candidates discovered by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have sizes ranging from that of Earth to that of Neptune, which is nearly four times as big as Earth. Such planets dominate the galactic census but are not represented in our own solar system. Astronomers don’t know how they form or if they are made of rock, water or gas.
The Kepler team today reports on four years of ground-based follow-up observations targeting Kepler’s exoplanet systems at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington. These ...January 8, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
The sun is just below the horizon in this photo and creates an orange-red glow above the Earth’s surface, which is the troposphere, or lowest layer of the atmosphere. The tropopause is the brown line along the upper edge of the troposphere. Above both are the stratosphere, higher atmospheric layers, and the blackness of space. Credit: NASA Johnson Space Center
Astrobiologists supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute have found that a peculiar feature in the atmosphere of Earth could also be present on billions of extrasolar planets. The new findings will help in the search for habitable worlds beyond ...January 3, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have characterized the atmospheres of two of the most common type of planets in the Milky Way galaxy and found both may be blanketed with clouds.
The planets are GJ 436b, located 36 light-years from Earth in the constellation Leo, and GJ 1214b, 40 light-years away in the constellation Ophiuchus. Despite numerous efforts, the nature of the atmospheres surrounding these planets had eluded definitive characterization until now. The researchers described their work as an important milestone on the road to characterizing potentially habitable, Earth-like worlds beyond the solar system. Their findings appear in ...January 2, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Rover traverse and location of ChemCam soil targets for the first 100 sols Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona, Figure from Meslin et al. (2013)
NASA’s Curiosity rover is now returning vast amounts of data from Mars. Findings from the mission were recently showcased in two special editions in the journal Science. In September, five papers were released describing results of Curiosity’s examinations of the rock Jake_M and a site known as Rocknest. Astrobiology Magazine spoke with some of the researchers behind the September Science articles in order to better understand how Curiosity’s findings relate to the ...December 23, 2013 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
These images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show how the appearance of dark markings on Martian slope changes with the seasons. The marks, called recurrent slope linea, extend down slopes during warmer months and fade away during cooler months. This animation shows the same location at several times of year. The location is in a crater on the floor of Valles Marineris, near the Martian equator.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has revealed to scientists slender dark markings — possibly due to salty water – that advance seasonally down slopes surprisingly ...December 20, 2013 / 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