1. MISSes on Mars? Let’s Look

    The January 2008 issue of the journal Geobiology is dedicated to the subject of microbially induced sedimentary structures (MISSes), a topic of interest in astrobiology. Nora Noffke, a Principal Investigator in the Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology Program, is guest editor of this special issue.

    Noffke is an associate professor in the Department of Ocean, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Noffke’s research interests include, in addition to astrobiology, the biosedimentary dynamics of siliciclastic marine environments and the co-evolution of sedimentary systems and benthic bacteria. She is studying ancient fossil MISSes at a site in ...

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  1. Book Review: 'The Living Cosmos: Our Search for Life in the Universe’

    This Los Angeles Times review of the new book 'The Living Cosmos: Our Search for Life in the Universe’ by Chris Impey of the University of Arizona describes the book as “wonderfully readable…”.

    The Living Cosmos
    Our Search for Life in the Universe
    Chris Impey
    Random House

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  1. A Quartet of Stars

    Evgenya Shkolnik of NAI’s University of Hawai’i Team reported this week at AAS in Austin that she and her colleagues have discovered an extremely rare quartet of stars orbiting each other within a region smaller than Jupiter’s orbit around the Sun. Did they originate in this configuration or were they forced together by a dense disk of gas in their youth?

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  1. Astrobiology and Atlantis

    A new set of experiments designed to test how bacteria change in response to space radiation are going up with space shuttle Atlantis and will be delivered to the International Space Station. Once there they will reside for more than a year on an external space station platform called EXPOSE. has the story

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  1. Binary Stars in the Orion Nebula

    Researchers from NAI’s University of Hawai’i Team have a new paper in Astronomical Journal describing a major survey of visual binaries toward the Orion Nebula Cluster. Using images from the NASA Hubble Space Telescope, the team performed analyses of over 75 binaries, including 55 new discoveries.

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  1. A Geobiological Perspective on the Emergence of Animal Life

    Researchers from NAI’s University of Hawai’i Team and their colleagues have a new paper in Geobiology reviewing recent work on the climatic, geochemical, and ecological events that preceded animal fossils, considering their portent for metazoan evolution. They also consider recent published research on the nature and chronology of the earliest fossil record of metazoans, and on the molecular-based analysis that yielded dates older than the last 35 million years of the Precambrian for the appearance of major animal groups.

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  1. NAI Montana State University Team Releases Website

    NAI’s new team at Montana State has just released their new website! It describes the research of each team member, including those at Stony Brook University and Temple University. The range of academic educational programs and outreach activities of the team are also described.

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  1. Novel Proteobacteria in Microbial Mats at Loihi Seamount

    With support from NAI Teams at the Carnegie Institution of Washington and UC Berkeley, researchers at the American Type Culture Collection and their colleagues have a new paper in PLOS One describing a novel lineage of proteobacteria which are dominant in iron-rich hydrothermal vent sites on the Loihi Seamount near Hawai’i. They form a unique morphological structure which could serve as a fossil biomarker.

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  1. How Low Can Geologists Go?

    Scientists have begun the final leg of a five-year, NASA-funded mission to reach the bottom of Cenote Zacatón in Mexico, the world’s deepest known sinkhole.

    No one has ever reached bottom and at least one diver has died in the attempt. Scientists want to learn more about Cenote Zacatón’s physical dimensions, the geothermal vents that feed it and the forms of life that exist in its murky depths.

    Previous expeditions tested the robotic probe that will make the dive. The Deep Phreatic Thermal Explorer, known as DEPTHX, is a tangerine-shaped submarine designed to survey and explore for life in extreme ...

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  1. Getting to the Core of Exoplanets: From Gas to Ice Giants

    The measured masses and orbits of the 200 secure exoplanets within 200 pc reveal the processes of formation and subsequent dynamics. Several planets reveal information on their cores and interiors. Multiple-planet systems, especially those in resonances, inform us about migration, scattering, and capture. Planets from 5-14 Earth masses are now detectable, and several have been found. The Kepler Mission and a new 2.4-m “Automated Planet Finder” telescope at Lick Observatory portend the detection of rocky planets.

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  1. NASA Predicts Non-Green Plants on Other Planets

    NASA scientists believe they have found a way to predict the color of plants on planets in other solar systems.

    Green, yellow or even red-dominant plants may live on extra-solar planets, according to scientists whose two scientific papers appear in the March issue of the journal, Astrobiology. The scientists studied light absorbed and reflected by organisms on Earth, and determined that if astronomers were to look at the light given off by planets circling distant stars, they might predict that some planets have mostly non-green plants.

    We can identify the strongest candidate wavelengths of light for the dominant color of ...

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  1. ASTID Goes to Mars!

    This outgrowth of flight instrument development from astrobiology program support follows in the footsteps of two instruments on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), scheduled for launch in 2009. Both CheMin, the Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument, and SAM, the Sample Analysis at Mars Instrument Suite with Gas Chromatograph, Mass Spectrometer, and Tunable Laser Spectrometer, had ASTID program support before they were successfully proposed for flight on MSL.

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  1. Researchers Identify First Five-Planet Extrasolar System

    Extrasolar planet research supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the National Science Foundation has yielded evidence of a fifth planet around the sun-like star 55 Cancri, making this system the first quintuple extrasolar planetary system ever discovered.

    “The newly discovered planet weighs about 45 times the mass of Earth,” The Jet Propulsion Laboratory reported in a press release, “and may be similar to Saturn in its composition and appearance. The planet is the fourth from 55 Cancri and completes one orbit every 260 days. Its location places the planet in the ‘habitable zone,’ a band around the star where ...

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  1. Leslie Orgel (1927-2007)

    Leslie OrgelIn 1964 Leslie Orgel joined The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla as a Senior Fellow. Prior to that time he was Assistant Director of Research in Theoretical Chemistry at Cambridge University, where he developed ligand-field theory as a means to understand the properties of transition metal complexes. Based on that work he was elected a Fellow of The Royal Society at the unusually young age of 35. In 1990, one year after becoming a U.S. citizen, he was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

    At the Salk Institute, Orgel became interested in what ...

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  1. Astrobiologist Builds Native American Research Laboratory

    NAI MIRS Program alum Michael Ceballos, now a research assistant professor at the University of Montana, has been appointed the lead the development of their two new Native American Research Laboratories. The labs are dedicated to training Native students in the sciences, and are the first research labs at any university in the nation developed specifically to provide hands-on, cross-disciplinary research training opportunities for Native American undergraduate and graduate students.

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