A NASA portrait of Dr. Baruch Blumberg in 1999. Image credit: NASA/Tom Trower
Baruch S. “Barry” Blumberg, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was the founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). When Blumberg passed away suddenly of a heart attack at age 85 on April 5, 2011, it was a huge loss for the astrobiology community.
This month, the journal Astrobiology features a tribute to Barry Blumberg written by current NAI Director, Carl Piltcher. The article is freely available on the journal’s website, and provides a background of Blumberg’s remarkable life ...January 9, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Current Europa missions under study by NASA are focused on answering the question “Is Europa habitable?” However, the potential presence of water plumes on the satellite could present an opportunity to pursue the question “Is there life on Europa?” Answering this question is far more challenging because measurements currently possible may provide only ambiguous results from a mission that either orbits or flies by Europa at relatively high velocity. To that end, NASA’s Planetary Science Division is convening a workshop to consider strategies to investigate Europa’s putative plumes for evidence of life. Invitees will be asked to provide ...January 7, 2015 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
A biological soil crust in Hovenweep National Monument, a region located in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. Credit: Nationalparks (Transferred by Nihonjoe)/Wikipedia
“Biological soil crusts” don’t look like much. In fact, people often trample right over these dark, or green-tinted, sometimes raised patches in the desert soil. But these scruffy stretches can house delicate ecosystems as varied and complexly interwoven as that of a lush, tropical rainforest.
Three new papers in the scientific journal Genome Association shed light on the microbes that commonly set up shop in biological soil crusts in Utah’s Moab Desert ...
Overlay of sketch on photograph from above to assist in the identification of the structures on the rock bed surface. Image credit: Noffke (2015). Courtesy of ASTROBIOLOGY, published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
A careful study of images taken by the NASA rover Curiosity has revealed intriguing similarities between ancient sedimentary rocks on Mars and structures shaped by microbes on Earth. The findings suggest, but do not prove, that life may have existed earlier on the Red Planet. The photos were taken as Curiosity drove through the Gillespie Lake outcrop in Yellowknife Bay.
The study was supported ...
Scott Sandford next to a cryovacuum systems that helps reveal the chemistry that produces organic compounds of astrobiological interest. Credit: NASA Ames/Sandford
A team of scientists has published the results of an investigative survey into the Sutter’s Mill meteorite that landed in California in 2012. The results reveal that the meteorite contained a number of features associated with minerals such as olivines, phyllosilicates, carbonates, and possibly pyroxenes, as well as organics. However, a key conclusion of the paper, and one that is likely to be of keen interest to astrobiologists, is confirmation that meteorites can become contaminated by ...
Ed Roberts competes in FameLab USA at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, CA on December 15, 2014
The second regional heat of FameLab USA’s Season 3 took place in San Francisco, CA on December 14-15th in conjunction with the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting. 14 early career scientists participated, and the research represented covered the gamut from cancer research to acid rain, GMO’s, and finding Earth-like planets elsewhere in the Universe!
Eight of the 14 advanced to the evening competition round, and gave their second 3-minute, powerpoint-free talk to a public audience of 150 people at ...December 22, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Abstract submissions for the 2015 Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) have now closed. For details, visit the AbSciCon 2015 website at: http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/abscicon2015/
AbSciCon 2015 is the next in a series of conferences organized by researchers within the interdisciplinary field of astrobiology. Scientists from around the world will gather in Chicago, Illinois, from June 15-19, 2015, to report new research findings and plan for astrobiology’s future. The theme of AbSciCon 2015 is “Habitability, Habitable Worlds, and Life.”
Other key dates include:
May 1, 2015 – Program and abstracts available
June 15–19, 2015 – Astrobiology Science Conference ...December 20, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity drilled into this rock target, “Cumberland,” during the 279th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (May 19, 2013) and collected a powdered sample of material from the rock’s interior. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
NASA’s Curiosity rover has made two of its most important observations on Mars since arriving on the planet in 2012. First, the rover measured a spike in levels of the organic chemical methane in the local atmosphere of its Gale Crater research site.
The second big discovery came when the rover drilled into a rock ...December 19, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
An artist's rendering of a Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) molecule. Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation
By comparing nonfunctional and functional RNA, scientists have uncovered new details about the potential chemical evolution of one of life’s essential molecules. The study could provide new insight into RNA’s role in the origins of life on Earth.
The study, “RNA as an Emergent Entity: An Understanding Gained Through Studying its Nonfunctional Alternatives,” was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the NASA Astrobiology Program under the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution.
Source: [astrobio.net]December 18, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
DATE: Wednesday, February 18, 2015
TIME: 8:30am – 5:30pm PST
LOCATION: NASA Ames Research Center, Building 152, Moffett Field, California
On February 18, 2015, the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) and the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) will co-host the workshop at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California.
Current Europa missions under study by NASA are focused on answering the question “Is Europa habitable?” However, the potential presence of water plumes on the satellite could present an opportunity to pursue the question “Is there life on Europa?” Answering this question is far more challenging because measurements currently ...December 15, 2014 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
Looking for astrobiology related sessions at AGU? We’ve combed through the program and made this quick and easy cheat sheet.
Download the astrobiology related sessions PDF here
You can find the full program at: http://fallmeeting.agu.org/2014/scientific-program/December 14, 2014 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
AbGradE (Astrobiology Graduates in Europe) held its first symposium in Edinburgh, UK, 10–11 October. The symposium started with an icebreaker event and consisted of two days of scientific sessions combined with networking, a round table, and a public outreach and education event. Approximately 40 enthusiastic and motivated early-career astrobiologists from all over Europe and beyond attended the symposium, presenting their work followed by discussions that enhanced sharing ideas with their contemporaries.
With the success of the first symposium, the committee is planning to hold the symposium biyearly along with the EANA meeting. For more information on AbGradE, visit: http ...December 9, 2014 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
A species of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) seen in a scanning electrograph image. Credit: NASA
The evolution of multicellular life on Earth happened with a number of key transitions from simple organisms to complex. Could the same transitions happen on other worlds? Frank Rosenzweig, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Montana, is looking into such questions over the next five years with funding from the NASA Astrobiology Institute. His lab studies how life evolves “complex traits,” factors that influence everything from lifespan to biodiversity.
Rosenzweig’s previous NASA funding came from the Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology Program ...
Crowds gathered at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to witness the launch of Orion. Credit: Aaron L. Gronstal
NASA has performed a flawless first flight test of the Orion capsule. Orion is being developed to carry humans to deep space. The expanded launch capabilities of the Orion program could also enable future science missions that are even larger and more capable than previous robotic explorers, which have shaped our understanding of Mars and other bodies throughout the Solar System.
Source: [astrobio.net]December 5, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
This artist's concept illustrates a young, red dwarf star surrounded by three planets. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech
NAI astrobiologists from the Virtual Planetary Laboratory at the University of Washington, graduate student Rodrigo Luger and professor Rory Barnes, have shown that many terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of low mass (M dwarf) stars could have experienced extreme stellar heating for up to 1 billion years after planet formation. This could lead to oceanic evaporation and atmospheric oxygenation. The study has been accepted for publication in Astrobiology.
Unlike the Sun, which formed over a span of a few tens of ...December 2, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
- 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 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 6th International Conference on Polar and Alpine Microbiology
- 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
- May 25 - 1st Advanced School on Exoplanetary Science
- May 28 - Emerging Researchers in Exoplanet Science Symposium (ERES)
- May 31 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 2nd Symposium of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR 2015): Water and Life in the Universe
- May 31 - Application Deadline for Gordon Research Conference on Origins of Solar Systems
- May 31 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Life in a Cosmic Context - 5th Workshop of the Italian Astrobiology Society
- June 2 - Workshop on the Formation of the Solar System II
- June 5 - Application Deadline for Berkner Autumn Program 2015