NAI

  1. Habitable Conditions on the Early Earth


    Direct information concerning the first 500 million years of Earth history – the Hadean Eon – is very limited, since practically no crustal rocks from that time have survived. We do know that the Earth collided much more frequently than it does today with asteroids and comets, as witnessed by the heavily cratered highlands of the Moon. Astronomers also tell us that the Sun was about 30 percent fainter then, so that the Earth may have been cold, unless there was a large greenhouse effect to trap the Sun’s heat and raise surface temperatures above the freezing point. Also of special interest is the apparent fact that life arose on Earth either during or shortly after the Hadean Eon.

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  1. Surviving STS-107


    Rocco Mancinelli, PI of NAI’s SETI Institute Lead Team, and member of NAI’s NASA Ames Research Center Lead Team joined researchers from KSC and Ames, as well as NAI’s Former Director, Barry Blumberg, in studying populations of C. Elegans which survived the atmospheric breakup of STS-107 during it’s fatal re-entry. Their results are published in Astrobiology. Five canisters were recovered, and live animals were observed in four of them. This demonstrates not only the ability of the culture medium to support the organisms during spaceflight, but also the ability of the animals to survive a relatively ...

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  1. Theoretical Planets Around M-Dwarfs


    NAI’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory Lead Team has published new findings from their Lab about the observable, biosignature gases of theoretical planets orbiting M-Dwarf stars in this month’s Astrobiology. Their outcomes are positive for designating M-Dwarfs a viable target for future observations involving the search for life.

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  1. Chance to View Stardust Return


    NASA’s Stardust mission is nearing Earth after a four billion kilometer round-trip journey to bring back comet dust samples. Viewers in California, Oregon, and Nevada have a chance to see the fiery entry of the return capsule into Earth’s atmosphere in the early morning of Sunday January 15 (approximately 2 a.m. PST, 3 a.m. MST).

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  1. NAI Discoveries Ranked Among NASA’s Top Science Stories of the Year


    Scientists from NAI’s NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Lead Team and NAI’s Carnegie Institution of Washington Lead Team and their collaborators used the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope to capture the first light ever detected from two planets orbiting stars other than the sun. Spitzer picked up the infrared glow from the Jupiter-sized planets. The findings mark the beginning of a new age of planetary science, in which extrasolar planets can be directly measured and compared.

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  1. Alternative Model for Diagenesis of Meridiani Bedrock


    Tom McCollom of NAI’s University of Colorado Lead Team and his co-author Brian Hynek published the details of their alternative model today in Nature. The scenario does not require prolonged interaction with a standing body of surface water, and describes an environment less favorable to biological activity on Mars.

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  1. Update on the Human-Chimpanzee Divergence


    Researchers from NAI’s Pennsylvania State University Lead Team and their colleagues at Arizona State University published this week in PNAS their research constraining the divergence of humans and chimpanzees. Using the largest data set yet and improved computational methods for the molecular clock calculations, the study narrows the gap from between 3 and 13 million years ago to between 5 and 7 million years ago.

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  1. Mars Rover Opportunity and Rio Tinto


    NAI Affiliate Members at the Centro de Astrobiologia, and others have one of eight research articles focusing on Opportunity in this month’s Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The paper explores the relationship between Meridiani and Rio Tinto, specifically how studying the river can help facilitate an understanding of Meridiani mineral precipitation and diagenesis, as well as astrobiological implications.

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  1. Living on Mars Time


    When NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover-A, more affectionately known as “Spirit,” touches down in Gusev Crater, it will be approximately 8:30 PM, January 3rd, 2004, at mission control. That’s Pacific Standard Time (PST), because mission control is located on the grounds of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, California.

    When time is the topic, however, Pacific Standard tells only part of Spirit’s story. Scientists and engineers will also be keeping track of UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), more commonly known as Greenwich Mean Time. UTC is the basis of official timekeeping all over the world. This world ...

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  1. Microbial Sulfur Disproportionation and Accelerated Oxygenation at Earth’s Surface


    Researchers from NAI’s Carnegie Institution of Washington Lead Team published a study in this week’s Science using high-precision measurements of a rare sulfur isotope, 33S, to establish that microbial sulfur disproportionation was in place almost half a billion years earlier than previously thought. This could imply that Earth’s surface may have become progressively more oxygenated during the middle Proterozoic.

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  1. Further Studies on the Rise of Atmospheric Oxygen


    Lee Kump of NAI’s Pennsylvania State University Lead Team is co-author on a new paper in GSA Today examining the rise of atmospheric oxygen at the Archean-Proterozoic transition, 2.5-2.0 billion years ago. The team of international researchers studied sedimentary and volcanic rocks from the Fennoscandian Shield, which provides a fairly complete record of the hallmark events of that transition.

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  1. The Evolution of Reptiles and Astrobiology


    Researchers from NAI’s Pennsylvania State University Lead Team have conducted the most comprehensive analysis ever performed of the genetic relationships among all the major groups of snakes, lizards and other scaly reptiles. Their paper in C. R. Biologies explains the radical reorganization of this family tree, and the importance to astrobiology.

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  1. A New Book From NAI’s Peter Ward


    Prolific author Peter Ward leads the pack, speculating on “Life As We Do Not Know It…” The book contains a wealth of information and dazzling speculation drawn from the ranks of Ward’s colleagues in the 16 research institutions that operate worldwide as NASA’s Astrobiology Institute.

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  1. Planets for Brown Dwarfs?


    Scientists from NAI’s University of Arizona Lead Team have used the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope to observe the very beginnings of what might become planets around brown dwarfs. They publish their results this week in Science.

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  1. Spitzer Telecope Data Suggest That Life’s Building Blocks Are Abundant


    Infrared astronomers are discovering that compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) constitute one the largest reservoirs of carbon in space. New observations confirm that PAHs are abundant, even in distant galaxies. Investigator Doug Huggins notes that “This stuff contains the building blocks of life, and now we can say they’re abundant in space. And wherever there’s a planet out there, we know that these things are going to be raining down on it.”

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