The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) 2014 Annual Science Report is now available. The report details the accomplishments of NAI members from the September 2013 to December 2014 reporting period, including Team Executive Summaries, research progress and findings, and publication citations focused around compelling questions in astrobiology. Of particular note are several interdisciplinary and integrated science themes that reflect numerous inter-team collaborations. Reports also include field site information, seminars and workshops, education program overviews, and more.
Browse the 2014 Annual Science Report by NAI Team reports, NAI Central reports, Astrobiology Roadmap Objectives, or by using the search function to explore the ...August 25, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Cassini VIMS/RADAR hybrid image of filled and dry lakes south of Titan’s methane sea Ligeia Mare. Blue arrows indicate current lakes, while the white arrows point to evaporates on dry lakes. Credit: NASA / JPL / UA
Saturn’s moon, Titan, is the only object in the Solar System other than Earth known to have liquid on its surface. While most of the hydrocarbon lakes are found around the poles, the dry regions near the equator contain signs of evaporated material left behind like rings on a bathtub that, when combined with geological features, suggest that the ...
The moon’s thin atmosphere contains neon, a gas commonly used in electric signs on Earth because of its intense glow. While scientists have speculated on the presence of neon in the lunar atmosphere for decades, NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft has confirmed its existence for the first time.
Read the press release from NASA here.
Click here to read more about Astrobiology and the LADEE mission.
Source: [NASA]August 24, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Nathalie Cabrol, PI of NAI SETI Team, appointed to lead Carl Sagan Center at SETI Institute. Credit: SETI Institute
Source: [SETI Institute]
The SETI Institute announces the appointment of Nathalie Cabrol as the lead for its multidisciplinary research programs into the nature and distribution of life beyond Earth. She will head the Institute’s Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe.
Cabrol, who has been with the Institute since 1998, is an astrobiologist specializing in planetary science, and is deeply involved in efforts to explore and characterize Mars. She also develops exploration strategies for the moons ...August 21, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
A view of a hydrothermal vent at the Main Endeavour Field on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, snapped from the submersible Alvin. Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Astrobiologists have uncovered two reaction pathways at hydrothermal vents that could produce organic compounds relevant to the origin of life on Earth and other worlds. For the origin of life as we know it, organic compounds need to be formed from inorganic precursors. Theories suggest that natural reactions could form these compounds at hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, where warm fluids rich in hydrogen are released.
In a study supported by the ...August 20, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Historic image of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko half an hour before Philae's first landing. Credits: European Space Agency/Rosetta/Navcam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.
While the Rosetta spacecraft orbits the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet, the Philae lander, deployed from Rosetta on November 2014, has gathered data on the surface of the comet that indicate the potential existence of prebiotic organics during the early solar system.
The lander’s Cometary Sampling and Composition (COSAC) evolved-gas analyzer utilized a “sniffing” mode, allowing molecules in the atmosphere to passively enter the instrument and then ionizing and accelerating the molecules for mass spectral ...August 19, 2015 / Written by: Miki Huynh
Cathodoluminescence image of a 400-μm zircon and the 3-D map made by atom-probe tomography of a group of ~10-nm clusters of radiogenic atoms of 207Pb (yellow) and 206Pb (green) from the core of this crystal. Credit: John Valley, University of Wisconsin.
A recently designed probe takes the analysis of Hadean-age zircon to the level of a single atom, broadening scientists’ understanding of the ancient mineral and its relation to the history of Earth.
In his Presidential Address to the Mineralogical Society of America last July, John Valley of the NAI Can 6 Team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison wrote about ...August 18, 2015 / Written by: Miki Huynh
NASA Postdoctoral Program (http://nasa.orau.org/postdoc/)
The NASA Astrobiology Program is pleased to welcome four new Fellows to the NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (NPP). They are:
Ashleigh Hood ”Integrated geochemical-petrographic insights on Earth’s oxygenation from Precambrian carbonates”
Advisor: Noah Planavsky (NAI University of California, Riverside Team, Yale University)
Nagayasu Nakanishi ”Investigating the early evolution of neuronal signaling mechanisms in animals”
Advisor: Mark Martindale (Exobiology, University of Florida)
Stephanie Weldon ”Swapping partners mid-dance: Symbiotic replacement in a tightly integrated intrabacterial, intracellular nested mutualism”
Advisor: John McCutcheon (NAI University of Montana, Missoula team)
Kristin Woycheese ”Methane and sulfur ...August 17, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
This series of images of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko was captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 12 August 2015, just a few hours before the comet reached the closest point to the Sun along its 6.5-year orbit, or perihelion. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
ESA’s Rosetta today witnessed Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko making its closest approach to the Sun. The exact moment of perihelion occurred at 02:03 GMT this morning when the comet came within 186 million km of the Sun.
In the year ...August 13, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...
- 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