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 ...
An artistic conception of the early Earth, showing a surface pummeled by large impacts, resulting in extrusion of deep seated magma onto the surface. At the same time, distal portions of the surface could have retained liquid water. Credit: Simone Marchi/SwRI.
New research shows that more than four billion years ago the surface of Earth was heavily reprocessed – or melted, mixed, and buried – as a result of giant asteroid impacts. A new terrestrial bombardment model, calibrated using existing lunar and terrestrial data, sheds light on the role asteroid collisions played in the evolution of the uppermost layers of the ...August 6, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Illustration of the mechanism and conceptual research targets for SHERLOC. SHERLOC will provide fine-scale imaging and use an ultraviolet laser to determine fine-scale mineralogy and detect organic compounds. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Last week, NASA announced seven instruments that will make up the payload of the Mars 2020 rover. Among those instruments is SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals).
SHERLOC will provide fine-scale imaging, and will also use an ultraviolet laser to study mineralogy and search for organic compounds. SHERLOC will be used to detect molecules that contain rings of carbon atoms. Such molecules may ...August 4, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
An artist concept image of where seven carefully-selected instruments will be located on NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. The instruments will conduct unprecedented science and exploration technology investigations on the Red Planet as never before. Image Credit: NASA
NASA has announced seven carefully-selected instruments that will make up the payload of the next rover being sent to Mars. The Mars 2020 rover is based on the successful design of Curiosity, which is currently exploring the martian surface. The new rover’s payload consists of upgraded hardware and new instruments that will study geology and the potential habitability of the martian ...August 1, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
- April 29 - Abstract Submission Deadline for European Planetary Science Congress 2015
- April 30 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 3rd International Workshop on Microbial Life Under Extreme Energy Limitation
- April 30 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Comparative Climates of Terrestrial Planets II: Understanding How Climate Systems Work (CCTP2)
- May 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 6th International Conference on Polar and Alpine Microbiology
- May 3 - Joint Assembly AGU, GAC, MAC, CGU
- May 4 - Comparative Tectonics and Geodynamics of Venus, Earth, and Rocky Exoplanets
- May 13 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 78th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society
- May 25 - 1st Advanced School on Exoplanetary Science
- May 28 - Emerging Researchers in Exoplanet Science Symposium (ERES)
- May 31 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 2nd Symposium of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR 2015): Water and Life in the Universe
- May 31 - Application Deadline for Gordon Research Conference on Origins of Solar Systems
- May 31 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Life in a Cosmic Context - 5th Workshop of the Italian Astrobiology Society
- June 2 - Workshop on the Formation of the Solar System II
- June 5 - Application Deadline for Berkner Autumn Program 2015