NAI

  1. Life in Low-Temperature Fluids Beneath the Ocean Crust


    Phylogenetic relationships of dsrB sequences from borehole 1025C and U1301A fluids. Robador et al., 2014 Phylogenetic relationships of dsrB sequences from borehole 1025C and U1301A fluids. Robador et al., 2014

    A new study supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the Astrobiology program is shedding light on microbial communities that live in low-temperature fluids just beneath the ocean crust. The largest aquifer system on Earth exists beneath the crust at the bottom of our planet’s oceans, yet life in this remote environment has remained relatively unexplored for decades. By drilling into the ocean floor, scientists retrieved low-temperature (<100°C) fluids from the environment. In the samples they found evidence of sulfate reducing microbes over a range of temperatures.

    The results suggest that sulfate reducing microbes could be responsible for the removal of organic matter in ...

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  1. Deep Sea Microbes Unchanged for 2.3 Billion Years


    In the muddy sediments beneath the deep sea, NAI-funded astrobiologists have found ancient communities of microbes that have remained virtually unchanged for 2.3 billion years.

    Researchers say these microscopic organisms are an example of “extreme evolutionary stasis” and represent the greatest lack of evolution ever seen.

    They may also, paradoxically, prove that Darwin’s theory of evolution is true.

    “If evolution is a product of changes in the physical and biological environment, and there are no changes in the physical and biological environment, then there will be no evolution,” said William Schopf, a paleobiologist at UCLA.

    He calls it ...

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  1. NASA Seeks New NASA Astrobiology Institute Director


    Application Deadline Extended to: July 10, 2015

    NASA seeks a new Director for the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). The ideal candidate will be an internationally recognized scientist with proven experience in leading or managing large interdisciplinary research programs or projects, possessed with a vision for leading the Institute into the future. Applicants for this position should have a broad scientific perspective on astrobiology, experience in conducting interdisciplinary scientific research, and demonstrated skills needed to harness the strengths of disparate research communities towards a greater goal. S/he should understand how to grow a research endeavor and respond to changing budget ...

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  1. Super Earths and Life: A New Online Course


    Super-Earths And Life is a course offered by HarvardX about alien life, how we search for it, and what this teaches us about our place in the universe.

    In the past decade astronomers have made incredible advances in the discovery of planets outside our solar system. Thirty years ago, we knew only of the planets in our own solar system. Now we know of thousands circling nearby stars.

    Meanwhile, biologists have gained a strong understanding of how life evolved on our own planet, all the way back to the earliest cells. We can describe how simple molecules can assemble themselves ...

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  1. 'Habitable Worlds’ Course Featured in Scientific American


    Students in the Habitable Worlds course learn what goes into making a planet. Credit: Anbar/Horodyskyj Students in the Habitable Worlds course learn what goes into making a planet. Credit: Anbar/Horodyskyj

    NAI-funded astrobiologists and educators at Arizona State University have made great strides in online education. Using themes in astrobiology, their Habitable Worlds course brings critical thinking skills to non-science majors…and the world is taking notice.

    Astrobiologist Aims to Make Science Education More Interactive

    I remember battling sleepiness as I slouched in a large lecture hall, squinting to make out the writing on the blackboard during my freshman introductory physics course in college. My difficulty staying alert in class was not the fault of ...

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  1. Kepler Exoplanet Travel Posters


    Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

    New from the PlanetQuest group at JPL, these gorgeous posters depict images of travel to worlds orbiting stars other than our own Sun! Just as mid-century travel posters enticed would-be travelers to exotic locales such as the islands of the Caribbean and South Pacific, we are similarly beckoned to consider places beyond our imagination – beyond our Solar System!

    Source: [JPL]

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  1. Rock Art Draws Scientists to Ancient Lakes


    Some of the purported “swimmers” in the Cave of the Swimmers, Egypt. Credit: NASA Photo/Chris McKay Some of the purported “swimmers” in the Cave of the Swimmers, Egypt. Credit: NASA Photo/Chris McKay

    Seven thousand year-old rock paintings in the Sahara desert have, somewhat serendipitously, helped uncover evidence of ancient lake beds. Researchers discovered the mineral remnants of the lake while studying a region well-known for its rock art. The research — presented in the Journal of African Earth Sciences — was partly funded by the NASA Astrobiology Program.

    Source: [astrobio.net]

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  1. Light Beyond the Bulb


    2015 International Year of Light. Background Image: Image Credit: Marek Mís 2015 International Year of Light. Background Image: Image Credit: Marek Mís

    A new international exhibition, “LIGHT: Beyond the Bulb,” has been launched to celebrate the 2015 International Year of Light.

    Together with SPIE (the international society for optics and photonics), the Chandra X-ray Center/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory are leading Light: Beyond the Bulb for the International Year of Light 2015 (IYL2015). LIGHT: Beyond the Bulb is a cornerstone project for the International Astronomical Union. IYL2015 was declared by the United Nations and is supported by UNESCO.

    Source: [lightexhibit.org]

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  1. In Memoriam: Alberto Behar


    Dr. Alberto Behar. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech Dr. Alberto Behar. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    The Astrobiology community deeply mourns the loss of Dr. Alberto Behar, a JPL employee, explorer, colleague, and friend to many. He died in the crash of a small plane on Friday, January 10, 2015, near Van Nuys Airport in the Los Angeles area.

    During his 23-year career at JPL, Dr. Behar specialized in robotics for exploring extreme environments on Earth and other planets. He played a key role in developing in situ robotic systems for measuring ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland using submarines, ice rovers and boats. He also participated in the ...

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  1. Rare Mineral in Wisconsin Meteorite Crater


    With support from the NASA Astrobiology Program, Cavosie brought students from the University of Puerto Rico to study outcrops at the Rock Elm meteorite impact structure. Reidite was found in the samp With support from the NASA Astrobiology Program, Cavosie brought students from the University of Puerto Rico to study outcrops at the Rock Elm meteorite impact structure. Reidite was found in the samples they collected. Credit: Aaron Cavosie

    Researchers have identified a rare mineral in a Wisconsin meteorite crater. The mineral reidite was found in the Rock Elm impact structure, making this only the fourth site on Earth where it has been identified.

    Reidite is a high-pressure mineral with well-constrained formation conditions, and was first identified in the laboratory in the 1960s. The only other sites where it has been spotted ...

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  1. A Tribute to Barry Blumberg


    A NASA portrait of Dr. Baruch Blumberg in 1999. Image credit: NASA/Tom Trower 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 ...

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  1. 2nd Announcement for the Workshop on the Potential for Finding Life in a Europa Plume


    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 ...

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  1. Complex Ecosystems in Barren Deserts


    A biological soil crust in Hovenweep National Monument, a region located in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. Credit: Nationalparks (Transferred by Nihonjoe)/Wikipedia A biological soil crust in Hovenweep National Monument, a region located in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. Credit: Nationalparks (Transferred by Nihonjoe)/Wikipedia

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    “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 ...

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  1. Curiosity Spots Intriguing Rocks on Mars


    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 Liebe 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.

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    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 ...

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  1. Contamination of Impacted Meteorites Can Happen Quickly


    Scott Sandford next to a cryovacuum systems that helps reveal the chemistry that produces organic compounds of astrobiological interest. Credit: NASA Ames/Sandford 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 ...

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