Not every planet in or near a habitable zone is habitable. Inhospitable Venus is an excellent example. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech
A new study explores how distant analogs to Venus might be detected and differentiated from Earth-like planets. Discovering a twin to Venus could help astrobiologists identify systems similar to our own Solar System and narrow the search for habitable worlds around distant stars.
The work was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory and published in Astrophyiscal Journal Letters.
Dr. Shawn Domagal-Goldman of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and co-author of the study recently spoke ...
Left: Ozone molecules in a planet's atmosphere could indicate biological activity, but ozone, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide -- without methane, is likely a false positive. Right: Ozone, oxygen, carbon dioxide and methane -- without carbon monoxide, indicate a possible true positive.
Astronomers searching the atmospheres of alien worlds for gases that might be produced by life can’t rely on the detection of just one type, such as oxygen, ozone, or methane, because in some cases these gases can be produced non-biologically, according to extensive simulations by researchers in the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory. The study appears ...
An Arizona State University alumna has devised the largest catalog ever produced for stellar compositions. Called the Hypatia Catalog, after one of the first female astronomers who lived ~350 AD in Alexandria, the work is critical to understanding the properties of stars, how they form, and possible connections with the formation and habitability of orbiting planets. And what she found from her work is that the compositions of nearby stars aren’t as uniform as once thought.
Since it is not possible to physically sample a star to determine its composition, astronomers study of the light from the object. This ...September 10, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Discoveries of new, potentially habitable worlds beyond our solar system raise challenging questions for humanity vis-a-vis faith, human nature, reality and religion. This discussion, hosted at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC on June 18, 2014, addresses the complex intersection of astrobiology and theology as part of the Kluge Center’s astrobiology program and features scholars from the Library, George Washington University, and Princeton.September 8, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Clouds that are probably composed of ice crystals and possibly supercooled water droplets were caught in images by NASA’s Opportunity rover. Credit: NASA/JPL/Texas A&M/Cornell
Curiosity celebrated two years on Mars on August 5, 2014, and is continuing its progress across the surface of the planet. In a tweet on September 2, 2014, Curiosity shared its view of the path ahead and proclaimed, “Head for the hills! I’m driving towards these hills on Mars to do geology work & also search for clouds.”
In this news post from astrobio.net, Dr. Robert M. Haberle, Planetary Scientist at NASA Ames and a team member for the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), explains why clouds on Mars are relevant to Curiosity’s astrobiology goals.Curiosity tweeted this image from the surface of Mars on Sept 2, 2014. Credit: NASA, @MarsCuriosity
REMS is an environmental monitoring station and was contributed to the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission by the Centro de Astrobiologia (CAB) in Spain, one of the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s international partners.
Source: [astrobio.net]September 8, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Deadline to submit Session Topics is October 22, 2014
The Astrobiology Science Conference 2015 (AbSciCon2015) Science Organizing Committee is soliciting community input for Session Topics and Session Organizers. Given the wide variety of disciplinary tools and topics to be presented at the conference, the success of AbSciCon 2015 will be built upon the community’s involvement in the organization of topical sessions. Community members are urged to be proactive in proposing sessions, merging similar session topics, and organizing abstracts into selected sessions.
To submit a session topic and to see the list of submissions visit: http://www.hou.usra.edu ...September 3, 2014 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
The Habitability of Icy Worlds workshop was held in early February, 2014 in Pasadena, CA, co-sponsored by NASA and USRA. The primary objective was to focus on the astrobiological potential of icy worlds in the outer solar system — including Europa, Ganymede, Enceladus, Titan, and beyond — with discussion on future research directions and spacecraft missions that can best assess that potential. The agenda for the workshop was organized around thematic sessions that address the potential habitability of the unique planetary environments of the outer solar system. Archived video of the sessions can be viewed here, courtesy of the NASA Astrobiology Institute ...September 3, 2014 / Written by: Daniella Scalice
Artist impression of Earth during the Archean eon. Image Credit: Peter Sawyer / Smithsonian Institution
A new study supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) has revealed details about the composition of Earth’s atmosphere during the Archean eon, which occurred roughly 4 to 2.4 billion years ago.
Astrobiologists study the Archean in order to better understand the early evolution of life on Earth, and how organisms survived in an environment that was much different than the planet today. Studying the Archean Earth can also provide clues about life’s potential beyond our planet.
“The Archean Earth is the most ...September 2, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Leading scientific experts were convened at NASA Headquarters on August 20th to discuss early Earth and how studying it can inform our search for life elsewhere in the Universe.
What can Earth’s history teach us about planets orbiting other stars? If you could visit the early Earth, you would find it a vastly different, inhospitable, and alien place. Yet, it was in this environment that life on this planet began and evolved. What do we know about the ancient Earth and how can that guide our search for habitable planets orbiting other stars?
NASA, NSF, and the Smithsonian Institution ...August 28, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Led by a NASA scientist, students hike into Lassen Volcanic National Park to sample hydrothermal waters. NASA
Mayson Trujillo stretches across a rock at the edge of a stream cascading through Lassen Volcanic National Park. Braving snow from an advancing blizzard, she meticulously collects a sample of the sulphur-scented water. Trujillo, a senior at Red Bluff High School in California, is intent on the task at hand: gathering data that may hold clues for early life on Earth—and potentially, Mars.
To reach the stream, Trujillo and 13 classmates snowshoed a mile into the center of an ancient volcano—for ...
Saturn’s moon Titan appears as a hazy ball from a distance. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
In a new study, astrobiologists are attempting to recreate substances found in the atmosphere of Titan known as tholins. These organic aerosols are formed as radiation and interact with the thick atmosphere of the Saturnian moon. The production of organics in Titan’s atmosphere could help astrobiologists better understand the conditions in which life arose on the early Earth.
The study was led by Dr. Chao He at the University of Houston (now of Johns Hopkins University). Chao is ...August 25, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
This rotating 3-D map shows how HCN molecules are released from the nucleus of comet Lemmon and then spread evenly throughout the atmosphere, or coma. Image Credit: Brian Kent/NRAO/AUI/NSF
A NASA-led team of scientists has created detailed 3-D maps of the atmospheres surrounding comets, identifying several gases and mapping their spread at the highest resolution ever achieved.
“We achieved truly first-of-a-kind mapping of important molecules that help us understand the nature of comets,” said Martin Cordiner, a researcher working in the Goddard Center for Astrobiology at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Cordiner led ...
JPL intern Jessica Nuñez observes hydrothermal chimneys in the laboratory. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Alexis Drake
Not many interns get the opportunity to study one of humanity’s biggest questions: How did life emerge? But mechanical engineering major Jessica Nuñez is having the experience of a lifetime in search of the answer. Nuñez is interning this summer in the Planetary Sciences Section at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
As part of a NASA Astrobiology Institute project led by Isik Kanik, Nuñez constructs and analyzes simulated hydrothermal vents, chimney-like structures that are hypothesized to have been the birthing ...
The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) welcomes back Dr. Carl B. Pilcher as NAI Interim Director. Carl will begin his tenure August 11, 2014, and serve on a half-time basis for approximately one year as the selection of a permanent director is completed.
Dr. Pilcher has had careers in both academia and NASA management. Dr. Pilcher retired as Director of the NAI in early 2013, after leading the Institute for more than six years. Prior to directing the Institute he was the Senior Scientist for Astrobiology at NASA Headquarters with overall management responsibility for NASA’s Astrobiology Program.
With bachelor’s ...August 7, 2014 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on August 3, 2014, from a distance of 177 miles (285 kilometers). Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
After a decade-long journey chasing its target, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe, carrying three NASA instruments, became the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
“After 10 years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion kilometers, we are delighted to announce finally we are here ...
- March 2 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 11th IAA Low-Cost Planetary Mission Conference (LCPM-11)
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- April 7 - Workshop on Venus Science Priorities for Laboratory Measurements and Instrument Definition
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