These dark, narrow, 100 meter-long streaks called recurring slope lineae flowing downhill on Mars are inferred to have been formed by contemporary flowing water. Recently, planetary scientists detected hydrated salts on these slopes at Hale crater, corroborating their original hypothesis that the streaks are indeed formed by liquid water. The blue color seen upslope of the dark streaks are thought not to be related to their formation, but instead are from the presence of the mineral pyroxene. The image is produced by draping an orthorectified (Infrared-Red-Blue/Green(IRB)) false color image (ESP_030570_1440) on a Digital Terrain Model (DTM) of the ...September 28, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Zoe rover exploring the coastal range of Chile's Atacama desert in 2004. Credit: Carnegie Mellon University
Using the Atacama Desert in Chile as an analog site for Mars, astrobiologists have tested a laser Raman spectrometer in preparation for future robotic missions. The Mars Micro-beam Raman Spectrometer (MMRS) was placed on the Zoë rover and used to analyze drill samples from a depth of one meter below the surface. Data from the MMRS provided information about regional geology and biological activities. With further testing, MMRS could prove to be a useful instrument for inclusion on future space missions. Currently, three ...September 24, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Hubble image of the chaotic-looking mass of gas and dust of a nearby supernova remnant. Radiation from sources in our galaxy could have had a profound effect on mutation rates throughout the history of life on Earth. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/HEIC and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Studying ancient life on Earth is important for astrobiologists who are interested in how speciation and radiation occurred throughout the history of our planet. However, it’s not always easy to pinpoint these events in time. For instance, when looking back at the history of life, there is a disparity between fossil ...September 22, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Image Credit: NASA
Searching for Life on Mars With PIXL and the Mars 2020 Rover Mission
Presenter: Abigail Allwood (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
When: September 21, 2015 1:00PM PDT
Finding conclusive evidence of primitive microbial life in multi-billion-year-old rocks is exceptionally difficult, as illustrated by doubt surrounding the interpretation of Earth’s earliest fossil record. Seeking evidence of ancient life on Mars is an even greater challenge – one that will be taken up by NASA’s ambitious new 2020 rover mission. 2020 builds on the success of the 2011 Curiosity rover and 2004 Mars Exploration Rovers, and is informed ...September 17, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Overhead shot of mountains of Barberton, South Africa. Photo credit: Earth Observatory NASA/MODIS imagry of modern day ocean cyanobacterial growth. Photo credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD
By analyzing iron isotopes against the uranium content in the jasper rock from the ancient ocean of the Barberton Greenstone Belt in South Africa, scientists have found a defined vertical redox gradient, called a redoxcline, showing a change in the level of oxygenation from the deeper part of the ocean leading to the shallower portion.
While the seawater at deeper level is depleted of oxygen, samples in the photic zone of ...September 17, 2015 / Written by: Miki Huynh
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
Source: [Jet Propulsion Laboratory]
A global ocean lies beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s geologically active moon Enceladus, according to new research using data from NASA’s Cassini mission.
Researchers found the magnitude of the moon’s very slight wobble, as it orbits Saturn, can only be accounted for if its outer ice shell is not frozen solid to its interior, meaning a global ocean must be present.
The finding implies the fine spray of water vapor ...September 16, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Researchers created "chemical gardens"—chimney-like structures normally found at bubbling vents on the seafloor—in the laboratory. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Source: [Jet Propulsion Laboratory]
One of the key necessities for life on our planet is electricity. That’s not to say that life requires a plug and socket, but everything from shrubs to ants to people harnesses energy via the transfer of electrons — the basis of electricity. Some experts think that the very first cell-like organisms on Earth channeled electricity from the seafloor using bubbling, chimney-shaped structures, also known as chemical gardens.
In a new study, researchers report growing ...September 15, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
On the Arctic plains of northern Mars, NASA's Phoenix lander revealed a landscape of interlocking polygon shapes similar to those on Earth that form in permafrost when it freezes and thaws seasonally. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
The habitability of Mars is of interest to astrobiology, life detection, and planetary protection efforts, and permafrost is considered a Martian analogue environment. In 2013, a group of US and Russian scientists reported the isolation from a borehole in Siberian permafrost of several bacteria belonging to the genus Carnobacterium that could grow in the laboratory under a combination of Mars ...September 14, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
The active Lost City hydrothermal field, located at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, is hosted by rocks very similar to those from the Iberia continental margin analyzed in this study. Lost City will be drilled during a forthcoming expedition by the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). Klein and his colleagues hope to gain more detailed insight in the subseafloor life by comparing rocks from the Iberia continental margin with those from other ODP and IODP drill cores. Credit: Photo by National Science Foundation, Univ. of Washington, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Ancient rocks harbored microbial life deep below the seafloor, reports a team ...September 8, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Crystal structure of photosystem I: a photosynthetic reaction center and core antenna system from cyanobacteria. Credit: Jawahar Swaminathan and MSD staff, European Bioinformatics Institute, Wikimedia
Studying Carbon-13 (13C) metabolism in a microbial community can be a time-consuming and tricky prospect. This is because scientists often have to separate a single species out of the mix for study. However, if particular proteins are produced by a single species within the community, they can sometimes be extracted to yield information about the 13C metabolism of those organisms. A new study describes how the protein photosystem I (PSI) might be used as a ...September 3, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Student Omar Perez Carrillo explains his research on air pressure collected using a weather sensor during the Montana Apprenticeship Program (MAP). Credit: Adrian Sanchez-Gozales/The Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
In Bozeman, Montana, NAI scientists, including Eric Boyd of the NAI CAN 7 University of Colorado Boulder team and professor at Montana State University, took part in the Montana Apprenticeship Program.
The program aims to motivate Native American and underrepresented high school students to pursue college degrees, especially in STEM fields, through engaging lessons that place students alongside scientists and their teams. This summer’s research projects included how to clone genes and ...September 2, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
One sample return prototype would hold a cache of up to 31 samples that could be returned to Earth at a later date. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
When the Mars 2020 rover arrives on the Red Planet, one of its primary mission goals will be to select and preserve samples that would eventually make it back to Earth for scientific study. Rather than seeking to eliminate contamination of these samples completely, essentially an impossible task, a panel of scientists and engineers met to assess the levels at which significant science could still occur.
“The whole point of going ...
Credit: Spaceward Bound India
A new opportunity for remote and extreme climate research has emerged in India, as a part of the NASA Spaceward Bound Program.
Spaceward Bound India 2016 presents scientists, engineers and students the opportunity to engage in astrobiological field research in Ladakh, a cold, high altitude mountainous ecosystem possessing Mars-analogous topological features. The area will allow different science teams to explore research areas including microbial diversity, geochemistry, lipid biomarkers, field geology and sedimentology, paleobotany and robotics. Through experiments and observations, scientists can learn more about the origin and evolution of living organisms within Ladakh and in similar ...August 31, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Geronimo Villanueva receives the Harold C. Urey Prize, Yuk Yung receives the Gerard P. Kuiper Prize, and Andrew Knoll becomes a Foreign Member of the Royal Society. Credits: NASA Goddard/Jose Aponte, DPS AAS, Royal Society.
Two NAI Recipients of 2015 Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) Awards
[Source: Divison of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society]
Geronimo Villanueva of the NAI CAN 7 NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center team received the Harold C. Urey Prize, which recognizes early career scientists who have made outstanding achievements in planetary science. His work has ranged from instrument design to spectroscopy to observational astronomy ...August 28, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Image credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Imagine a world without liquid water — just solid ice in all directions. It would certainly not be a place that most life forms would like to live.
And yet our planet has gone through several frozen periods, in which a runaway climate effect led to global, or near global, ice cover. The last of these so-called “Snowball Earth” glaciations ended around 635 million years ago when complex life was just starting to develop. It’s still uncertain if ice blanketed the entire planet, or if some mechanism was able to halt ...August 27, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
- 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