A view of Antarctica's Taylor Valley. The Antarctic Dry Valleys are considered one of the most Mars-like environments on Earth. Credit: Peter West, National Science Foundation
Astrobiologists have provided new data about microorganisms that live in the permafrost of Antarctica’s Dry Valleys. Using molecular techniques alongside culturing, the team studied bacterial communities from Taylor Valley and identified psychrophiles, or organisms that are able to remain active at low temperatures. In the laboratory, bacteria collected from the Taylor Valley permafrost remained active down to −5 °C (with peak activity at 15 °C).
This work was supported by the Astrobiology Science ...May 5, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Octopus Spring in Yellowstone National Park. Credit: David Strong, Penn State University
Researchers supported in part by the Exobiology & Evolutionary Biology element of the NASA Astrobiology Program have isolated a new 'acid-loving’ microorganisms from cyanobacterial microbial mats associated with Octopus Spring in Yellowstone. Chloracidobacterium thermophilum strain B is an anoxygenic photoheterotroph, a member of the phylum Acidobacteria, and moderately thermophilic.
The paper, “Chloracidobacterium thermophilum gen. nov., sp. nov.: an anoxygenic microaerophilic chlorophotoheterotrophic acidobacterium,” was published in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.May 4, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Scientists are providing new insights into the role mutations play in the evolution of microbial populations. Researchers examined the relationship between different, beneficial mutations in a population, and how organisms survive when one or more of the mutations are present in a single organism.
The study, “ The Valley-of-Death: Reciprocal sign epistasis constrains adaptive trajectories in a constant, nutrient limiting environment,” was published in the journal Genomics.
The research was supported in part by the Exobiology & Evolutionary Biology element of the NASA Astrobiology Program.
Source: [Genomics]May 1, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Researchers subjected populations of Pleodorina starrii to selective pressures in mixed environments and studied their response. Above is a micrograph of Pleodorina starrii. Image Credit: © Matthew D. Herron, University of Arizona
By studying colonies of volvocine green algae, astrobiologists have uncovered new clues about how cells gained the ability to differentiate into functional types, a critical step in the evolution of multicellular organisms.
The paper, “Fitness trade-offs and developmental constraints in the evolution of soma: an experimental study in a volvocine alga,” was published in the journal Evolutionary Ecology Research.
This work was supported in part by the NASA ...April 30, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
An artist depiction of a cryobot tunneling through ice. Credit: Copyright Stone Aerospace, presented at AbSciCon 2012
Researchers are developing a protoype cryobot that could help astrobiologists explore icy worlds in the Solar System as well as some of the most extreme environments on Earth. Technologies developed for VALKYRIE (Very-deep Autonomous Laser-powered Kilowatt-class Yo-yoing Robotic Ice Explorer) could allow robots to explore beneath the ice caps of planets, or glaciers here on Earth. One element of the design includes using a high-energy laser to power the ice explorer.
Details about the 4-year effort are presented in the paper, “Progress towards ...April 29, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Scanning electron microscopy image of a MOWS specimen, which is about 4 mm in total length. Image taken by Phoebe Cohen
Researchers supported in part by the Exobiology & Evolutionary Biology element of the NASA Astrobiology Program have discovered new and unusual fossils in Mongolia. The structures, known as macroscopic organic warty sheets (MOWS), could be the remains of fungal biofilms, or even previously unknown organisms that are now extinct. However, the team believes that multiple lines of evidence indicate that the MOWS are the remnants of ancient marine algae.
Regardless of the organisms responsible for their production, the discovery of MOWS increases our understanding of biological diversity during a period of Earth’s history known as the Cryogenian glacial interlude (662–635 million years ago). The discovery also shows that macroscopic and morphologically complex multicellular organisms were present in the Cryogenian.
The study, “Fossils of putative marine algae from the cryogenian glacial interlude of Mongolia,” was published in the journal Palaios.
Source: [Palaios]April 29, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Nathalie A. Cabrol diving and sampling in the Licancabur lake at 5,917 m elevation in the volcano’s crater. Photo Credit: The High Lakes Project: The SETI Institute Carl Sagan Center/NASA Ames/ NAI
Astrobiologist Nathalie Cabrol recently spoke about her work in remote field sites, including high-altitude lakes in the Andes, at the TED2015 conference. In her talk, Cabrol discusses how this work could help scientists search for signs of life on Mars.
Cabrol’s TED Talk, “Nathalie Cabrol: How Mars might hold the secret to the origin of life,” is now available to watch from TED.com ...April 28, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Dickinsonia fossil from Nilpena, South Australia. Black arrow points to lifted portion of the specimen and is pointed in the direction the waves would have moved during the Ediacaran. Credit: Droser Lab, UC Riverside.
Scientist supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute have discovered that certain specimens of fossil Dickinsonia appear incomplete because they were lifted from the sea floor by ancient ocean currents, allowing sand to fill in the gap. The results suggest that Dickinsonia was mobile and not attached to the sea floor.
The study, “Dickinsonia liftoff: Evidence of current derived morphologies,” was published in the ...April 28, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
A hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. Image Credit: Darren Edwards, http://fettss.arc.nasa.gov/collection/details/yellowstone-1/
A study of the Yellowstone hot springs has revealed new clues about how organic materials might have been preserved in similar environments on ancient Mars. Researchers found that iron could either preserve or react with organic material in a way that helps form a fossil record.
The study, supported in part by the Exobiology & Evolutionary Biology element of the NASA Astrobiology Program, was published in the journal Astrobiology.
Source: [astrobio.net]April 27, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
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 Lander mission, has ...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.
- October 16 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 2016 Gordon Research Conference & Seminar "Origins of Life"
- October 20 - Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) Meeting
- October 23 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Paneth Kolloquium: First 10 Million Years of the Solar System
- October 28 - International Meeting: Missions to Habitable Worlds
- October 31 - Application Deadline for 2016 Vatican Observatory Summer School in Astrophyics on Water in the Solar System and Beyond
- October 31 - Application Deadline for the 2016 Exploration Postdoctoral Fellowships at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University
- November 1 - Geological Society of America (GSA) 2015 Annual Meeting
- November 1 - Application Deadline for NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Program Fellowshi[
- November 2 - K2 Science Conference (K2SciCon)
- November 5 - Application Deadline for 2016 Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowships
- November 11 - Paneth Kolloquium: First 10 Million Years of the Solar System
- November 16 - French Astrobiology Society Young Researchers Congress