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
Saturn's moon Titan is the only world in our solar system other than Earth that has stable liquid on its surface. The liquid in Titan's lakes and seas is mostly methane and ethane.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is providing scientists with key clues about Saturn’s moon Titan, and in particular, its hydrocarbon lakes and seas.
Titan is one of the most Earth-like places in the solar system, and the only place other than our planet that has stable liquid on its surface.
Cassini’s recent close flybys are bringing into sharper focus a region in Titan’s ...December 19, 2013 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
This mosaic of images from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows a series of sedimentary deposits in the Glenelg area of Gale Crater, from a perspective in Yellowknife Bay looking toward west-northwest. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Six new papers outlining science results from NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars have been published in the journal Science Express. Talks on the results were also given during the 2013 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), held in San Francisco from December 9-13.
The papers provide valuable information for astrobiologists who are attempting to ...December 18, 2013 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has observed water vapor above the frigid south polar region of Jupiter’s moon Europa, providing the first strong evidence of water plumes erupting off the moon’s surface.
Previous scientific findings from other sources already point to the existence of an ocean located under Europa’s icy crust. Researchers are not yet certain whether the detected water vapor is generated by water plumes erupting on the surface, but they are confident this is the most likely explanation. Should further observations support the finding, it would make Europa the second moon in the solar system ...December 17, 2013 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Voyager 1 took photos of Jupiter and two of its moons (Io, left, and Europa) on Feb. 13, 1979. Credit: NASA/JPL
A new study supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute suggests that the possibility of life being transferred from the inner solar system to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, although very rare, cannot be ruled out.
The idea that life can spread through space is known as panspermia. One class of panspermia is lithopanspermia — the notion that life might travel on rocks knocked off a world’s surface. If these meteoroids encase hardy enough organisms, they could seed ...
Using the powerful eye of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, two teams of scientists, funded in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, have found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant planets.
The presence of atmospheric water was reported previously on a few exoplanets orbiting stars beyond our solar system, but this is the first study to conclusively measure and compare the profiles and intensities of these signatures on multiple worlds.
The five planets — WASP-17b, HD209458b, WASP-12b, WASP-19b and XO-1b — orbit nearby stars. The strengths of their water signatures varied. WASP-17b, a planet with an especially puffed-up ...December 13, 2013 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Please join us in congratulating our winner and wild cards from the FameLab regional heat at AGU 2013 in San Francisco on December 8th! From left to right: Alli Coffin from Washington State University (wild card), Lilah Rahn-Lee from UC Berkeley (wild card), and Gabriella March from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (winner and audience choice).
Thirteen early career scientists participated in the day – in the morning each contestant gave their first 3-minute, powerpoint-free talk to the judges, and in the afternoon all took part in a training focused on principles and best practices in science communication. Nine advanced to ...December 11, 2013 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice