NAI

  1. Water Vapor Venting From Europa


    This is an artist's concept of a plume of water vapor thought to be ejected off the frigid, icy surface of the Jovian moon Europa, located about 500 million miles (800 million kilometers) from the sun

    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 ...

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  1. Could Life Hitch a Ride to Saturn and Jupiter?


    Voyager 1 took photos of Jupiter and two of its moons (Io, left, and Europa) on Feb. 13, 1979. Credit: NASA/JPL 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 ...

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  1. Signals of Water on Extrasolar Planets


    This illustration shows a star's light illuminating the atmosphere of a planet.

    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 ...

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  1. FameLab@AGU!


    Winners from FameLab@AGU 2013

    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 ...

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  1. The State of Super Earths


    Artist's impression of Kepler-62f, a potential super-Earth in its star's habitable zone. Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech Artist's impression of Kepler-62f, a potential super-Earth in its star's habitable zone. Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

    Super-Earths are planets that range from 2-10 times the mass of the Earth, and with radii up to twice as large as our planet. A number of super-Earths have been identified around distant stars, but scientists have yet to determine if any of these planets could be habitable for life as we know it.

    The first step in identifying a habitable super-Earth is to check and see if it has a stable, long-term orbit that sits within the habitable zone of its ...

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  1. Ancient Minerals on Earth and the Origin of Life


    The magnesium silicate forsterite was one of the most abundant minerals in the Hadean Eon, and it played a major role in Earth's near-surface processes. The green color of this mineral (which is also The magnesium silicate forsterite was one of the most abundant minerals in the Hadean Eon, and it played a major role in Earth's near-surface processes. The green color of this mineral (which is also known as the semi-precious gemstone peridot, the birthstone of August) is caused by small amounts iron. The iron can react with seawater to promote chemical reactions that may have played a role in life's origins. Credit: Photo courtesy of Robert Downs, University of Arizona, Ruff Project

    The origin of life is thought to have been the result of natural processes that took advantage of ...

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  1. Dining on Methane in the Cold, Dark Sea


    The image to the left shows Jennifer Glass working in a chamber where she can control the oxygen levels to mimic the deep sea environment. On the right is an example of marine gas hydrates on the sea The image to the left shows Jennifer Glass working in a chamber where she can control the oxygen levels to mimic the deep sea environment. On the right is an example of marine gas hydrates on the sea floor. Credit: Rob Felt (left image); US Department of Energy (right image)

    Astrobiologists supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute have performed a detailed analysis of the biochemistry that helps microorganisms thrive in extremely cold environments around methane seeps on the ocean floor.

    The study was led by Jennifer Glass at Georgia Tech, and reveals previously unknown details about how two ...

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  1. The Oldest Signs of Life on Earth


    An example of wrinkle mats at the Dresser Formation. Credit: Wikicommons An example of wrinkle mats at the Dresser Formation. Credit: Wikicommons

    Scientists studying geological structures in Australia have found evidence of microbial life in 3.48 billion-year-old rocks. Their discovery could represent the oldest biosignatures yet identified on Earth.

    Nora Noffke of Old Dominion University first spotted what looked like a microbially-induced sedimentary structure (or MISS) while visiting Australia in 2008. The MISS structures were found in Western Australia’s Dresser Formation, which contains some of the oldest known rocks on Earth’s surface. The Dresser Formation is an active research site for scientists studying the ancient environment of Earth ...

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  1. Go MAVEN!


    Taking Flight at Cape Canaveral The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft launches from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA’s Mars-bound spacecraft, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN, is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.

    Join us in congratulating the MAVEN team on a successful launch!

    NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission began with a smooth countdown and flawless launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 ...

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  1. Glassy Coating Keeps Viruses Happy in Harsh Environments


    The dark round blobs in this photomicrograph are the capsids of Bacteriophage T4 virus particles, which retain their characteristic shape after being coated with silica. The long, straight "tails" of The dark round blobs in this photomicrograph are the capsids of Bacteriophage T4 virus particles, which retain their characteristic shape after being coated with silica. The long, straight "tails" of many of the virus particles can be seen extending from the capsids in this image as well. Credit: Jim Laidler

    What’s a virus to do when it finds itself in an inhospitable environment such as hot water? Coating itself in glass seems to not only provide protection, but may also make it easier to jump to a more favorable location to spread.

    Researchers led by a group from the ...

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  1. A New Microbe Living in Spacecraft Clean Rooms


    This microscopic image shows dozens of individual bacterial cells of the recently discovered species Tersicoccus phoenicis. This species has been found in only two places: clean rooms in Florida and S This microscopic image shows dozens of individual bacterial cells of the recently discovered species Tersicoccus phoenicis. This species has been found in only two places: clean rooms in Florida and South America where spacecraft are assembled for launch. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Scientists have identified a new microbe in two geographically distant spacecraft assembly clean rooms. The bacteria is dubbed Tersicoccus phoenicis, since it was first found in the assembly clean room of the Mars Phoenix Lander.

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  1. The Evolution of Multicellularity: An Update


    The transition to multicellularity was one of a few major events in life’s history that created new opportunities for more complex biological systems to evolve. As this transition fundamentally changes what constitutes an individual, dissecting the steps in this transition remains a major challenge within evolutionary biology.

    Compared with other major transitions in evolution that occurred just once (for example, the origin of eukaryotes), multicellularity has evolved repeatedly. Most origins of multicellularity are ancient and transitional forms have been lost to extinction, so little is known about the potential for multicellularity to evolve from unicellular lineages, or the route ...

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  1. Kepler Ushers in a New Era of Astronomy


    New data from Kepler show an increase in the number of Earth-sized planets discovered. New data from Kepler show an increase in the number of Earth-sized planets discovered.

    Scientists from around the world are gathered this week at NASA’s Ames Research Center for the second Kepler Science Conference to discuss the latest findings resulting from the analysis of Kepler Space Telescope data.

    Included in these findings is the discovery of 833 new candidate planets. Ten of these candidates are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit in their star’s habitable zone, which is defined as the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet ...

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  1. Curiosity Redux: Results So Far From the Science Team


    NASA’s Curiosity Rover landed on Mars a little over a year ago, and results from its first four months of data collection have now been published in the journal Science.

    Five articles outline numerous findings from Curiosity’s suite of instruments, including data from Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction (CheMin). The studies will help astrobiologists understand past and present environmental conditions on Mars.

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  1. New Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Starts Today


    Steven Dick Steven Dick

    Please join us in welcoming science historian Steven J. Dick as he begins his term today as the second 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 one year.

    A well-known astronomer and author, Dick was the chair in aerospace history at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum and served as the chief historian for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from 2003 to 2009.

    Dick will examine the historical background of astrobiology, and will ...

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