NASA is bringing together experts spanning a variety of scientific fields for an unprecedented initiative dedicated to the search for life on planets outside our solar system.
The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, or “NExSS”, hopes to better understand the various components of an exoplanet, as well as how the planet stars and neighbor planets interact to support life.
“This interdisciplinary endeavor connects top research teams and provides a synthesized approach in the search for planets with the greatest potential for signs of life,” says Jim Green, NASA’s Director of Planetary Science. “The hunt for exoplanets is not only ...April 24, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
The remotely operated Nereus vehicle at the the Mid-Cayman Spreading Center in 2009. A new sample collection tool for marine microbiology and biogeochemical studies could be used on such vehicles to help astrobiologists study environments deep below the ocean surface. Credit: Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory, WHOI
Researchers supported in part by the Astrobiology Science & Technology for Exploring Planets element of the NASA Astrobiology Program have developed a new tool for collecting large-volume samples for marine microbiology and biogeochemical studies.
The Suspended Particulate Rosette V2 large volume multi-sampling system can be deployed on remotely operated vehicles, and allows astrobiologists to quickly collect multiple samples of the water column from remote environments like hydrothermal plumes. The system was successfully tested on hydrothermal vent systems of the Mid-Cayman Rise.
The paper, “A large volume particulate and water multi-sampler with in situ preservation for microbial and biogeochemical studies,” was published in the journal Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers.April 22, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Giulio Mariotti (left) and Nicholas Swanson-Hysell (right). Credit: EOS
The American Geophysical Union (AGU) has recognized two early career astrobiologists.
Giulio Mariotti received the 2014 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award for his work on the interactions of coastal hydrodynamics, morphodynamics, and ecological processes. Mariotti was a participant in the 2013 Australian Astrobiology Tour with the The Australian Centre for Astrobiology (ACA), one of the first international partners of the NASA Astrobiology Institute.
Nicholas Swanson-Hysell was selected as the recipient of the 2014 William Gilbert Award for his work on basalts of the North American Midcontinent Rift. Swanson-Hysell was a ...April 17, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Researchers at NASA are currently hard at work on the proposed Mars 2020 rover, which will expand upon previous missions to help determine Mars’ potential habitability, both past and present. One task the rover might face is to collect and cache scientific samples that could one day be returned to Earth for further study.
Protecting such samples from contamination has been identified as an important and complex issue by the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG), and was the subject of an independent investigation by the Mars 2020 Organic Contamination Panel (OCP).
In 2014, the OCP convened to evaluate and ...April 15, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover includes temperature and humidity sensors mounted on the rover's mast. One of the REMS booms extends to the left from the mast in this view. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
NASA Mars Rover’s Weather Data Bolster Case for Brine
Martian weather and soil conditions that NASA’s Curiosity rover has measured, together with a type of salt found in Martian soil, could put liquid brine in the soil at night.
Perchlorate identified in Martian soil by the Curiosity mission, and previously by NASA’s Phoenix Mars ...April 14, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
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
A new study reveals that viruses lend a surprisingly helpful hand to microbes eking out a living near deep-sea hydrothermal vents. When they infect the vent’s resident bacteria and archaea, the viruses mix and match the single-celled creatures’ genes. As a result, the microbes can benefit from possessing a wide range of genes in a way that broadens their repertoire of responses to the quick-changing, harsh conditions of the vent environment.
Mixed biofilm. Credit: Cooper Lab, Vaughn Cooper, University of New Hampshire
A new study is helping astrobiologists understand how bacteria adapt to environmental conditions during infections. The researchers paired experimental evolution and modern sequencing techniques to study adaptations in biofilm bacteria when recovering from pathogen infection.
The study, “There and back again: consequences of biofilm specialization under selection for dispersal,” was published in the journal Frontiers in Genetics
This research was supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI).
Source: [Frontiers in Genetics]April 9, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Nathaniel Comfort of the Johns Hopkins Institute of the History of Medicine. Credit: Johns Hopkins
Nathaniel Comfort Announced as Third Chair in Astrobiology at John W. Kluge Center
Historian of science Nathaniel Comfort will begin on October 1, 2015 as the third Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology in the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. He will be in residence for twelve months. As Astrobiology Chair, Comfort will use the Library’s collections to examine the history of the genomic revolution in origin-of-life research.
The Astrobiology Chair at the Kluge Center is ...April 7, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
An investigator is having a closer look at an open water region of Sukok Lake. Credit: NASA JPL, Icy Worlds 2011 Annual Report
Astrobiologists studying ecological changes in shallow lakes on the North Slope of Alaska have discovered diverse sources of methane in lake sediments. The study shows that methane can arise from sources deep in the Earth or from biological communities that inhabit sediments on the lake floor.
Importantly, the research also reveals that rising global temperatures may result in increasing production of this potential greenhouse gas by methane-generating microbes. The results of the five-year study are an important ...April 7, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Jordan Okie in the field. Credit: Arizona State University
POSTPONED: Quantifying Constraints on Metabolic Diversity Patterns
We regret to inform you that today’s scheduled seminar featuring Jordan Okie has been postponed. We will send an announcement when a new date for the seminar has been set.
Jordan Okie of Arizona State University will be presenting his seminar, “Quantifying Constraints on Metabolic Diversity Patterns,” as part of the NASA Astrobiology NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Alumni Seminar Series.
Source: [NASA Astrobiology]April 6, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Ball and stick model of the oxalic acid molecule. Credit: Ben Mills and Jynto, Wikimedia Commons
A new study is helping astrobiologists understand whether or not the decomposition of oxalic acid could act as a source of C-O-H in petrologic experiments. The team studied how oxalic acid decomposes in oxidizing, reducing and unbuffered solutions at temperatures up to 800 °C.
The paper, “In-situ characterization of oxalic acid breakdown at elevated P and T: Implications for organic C-O-H fluid sources ...April 3, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Researchers sail the PLL toward the northwest finger of Laguna Negra. Credit: Chris Haberle
Researchers supported by the Astrobiology Science & Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) element of the Astrobiology Program have published a field report on the Planetary Lake Lander (PLL) probe. The report describes the design and operation of the PLL as well as its ground data systems.
The PLL is designed to study physical, chemical, and biological processes in a high-altitude lake, and how these processes are being affected by deglaciation. The PLL also provides an opportunity to test technologies that could be used on a future mission to Saturn’s moon Titan.
Check out the Planetary Lake Lander Project Video Series here.
The study, “Planetary Lake Lander—A Robotic Sentinel to Monitor Remote Lakes,” was published in the Journal of Field Robotics.
Source: [Journal of Field Robotics]April 1, 2015 / 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
Scientists using the Curiosity rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument have found complex organic molecules on Mars when analyzing samples from a mudstone in the site dubbed 'Yellowknife Bay.’ The findings are the first results from the wet chemistry experiment on SAM, and were presented at the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC ...March 30, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Integration of Sample Analysis at Mars instrument for Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity. Credit: NASA/GSFC/SAM
A team using the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover has made the first detection of nitrogen on the surface of Mars from release during heating of Martian sediments. The nitrogen was detected in the form of nitric oxide, and could be released from the breakdown of nitrates during heating. Nitrates are a class of molecules that contain nitrogen in a form that can be used by living organisms. The discovery adds to the evidence that ancient ...March 26, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Finalists from FameLab Season 3 Regional Competition #1, held during AbGradCon 2014 at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Credit: NASA
The Regional Heat #3 for Season 3 of the FameLab competition will be held at Stony Brook University on Long Island from April 16-17, 2015.
Are you an early career scientist who is passionate about science communication…or simply looking to improve your skills? Visit the FameLab site for more information and to register!
This regional heat is being hosted in partnership with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.
Source: [FameLab]March 24, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
- July 29 - USGS Training Workshop: Introduction to GIS for Planetary Mappers
- August 1 - Postdoctoral Teaching Associate in Mineralogy - University of Tennesee
- August 1 - Application Deadline for Ten Postdoctoral Fellowships in Interdisciplinary Research Relating to Origins of Life
- August 1 - Application Deadline for Reconceptualizing the Origin of Life: Experimental, Interdisciplinary, and Computational Windows on the Core Concepts - Conference
- August 5 - Direct Imaging of Habitable Exoplanets (Session P003) Abstract Submission Deadline for American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting
- August 5 - Abstract Submission Deadline for American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting
- August 11 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Geological Society of America (GSA) 2015 Annual Meeting
- August 21 - Summer School at Moletai Observatory: "Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems and Habitable Planets"
- August 24 - Berkner Autumn Program 2015