NAI

  1. NASA Study Shows Titan and Early Earth Atmospheres Are Similar


    Organic haze in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon, Titan, is similar to haze in early Earth’s air — haze that may have helped nourish life on our planet— according to a NASA Astrobiology Institute study released Nov. 6, 2006.

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  1. Astrobiology Primer Published!


    The Astrobiology Primer: An Outline of General Knowledge appears in this month’s issue of Astrobiology. Sponsored by NAI, the Primer was spearheaded by editor-in-chief Lucas Mix, and represents the work of 8 editors, 13 authors, and countless contributors. Intended as a reference tool, it provides information in these 7 topics: Stellar Formation and Evolution, Planetary Formation and Evolution, Astrobiogeochemistry and the Origin of Life, Evolution of Life Through Time, Planet Detection and Characterization, Diversity of Life, and Science in Space. The Primer came about in large part because of NAI support for graduate student research, collaboration, and inclusion as ...

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  1. Romer’s Gap Confirmed


    Peter Ward from NAI’s Alumni Team at the University of Washington and his collaborators have a new paper out in PNAS this week providing supportive evidence for Romer’s Gap. Their results link this gap in vertebrate terrestrialization with a low atmospheric oxygen interval. This paper supports Ward’s new book on the evolution of effective respiratory systems, entitled “Out of Thin Air.”

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  1. Microbes of the Deep


    In this week’s Science, researchers from NAI’s Indiana, Princeton, Tennessee Astrobiology Initiative (IPTAI) and Carnegie Institution of Washington Teams report that they have found an extant microbial biome at 2.8km depth in a South African mine. Analyses showed thermophilic sulfate reducers existing “with no apparent reliance on photosynthetically derived substrates.”

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  1. Impact From the Deep


    Strangling heat and gases emanating from the earth and sea, not asteroids, most likely caused several ancient mass extinctions. Peter Ward from NAI’s Alumni Team at the University of Washington asks in this week’s Scientific American: “Could the same killer-greenhouse conditions build once again?”

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  1. Exoplanet Weather


    Researchers from NAI’s UCLA, Carnegie Institution of Washington, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Teams published this week in Science Express what may well be the first “Interstellar Weather Report.” Focusing on the innermost planet orbiting the star Upsilon Andromeda b, a hot Jupiter, the team used NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to make measurements indicating that the temperature variation between the planets light and dark sides is 2,550 degrees Fahrenheit.

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  1. Photosynthesis in the Late Archean


    A new study on carbon isotopes in sedimentary rocks from Western Australia by researchers from NAI’s Penn State and Carnegie Institution of Washington Teams supports the idea that small, shallow pools of water containing photosynthetic microbes existed on the early Earth ~ 2.72 Gya, about 300 million years before the rise of oxygen in the atmosphere. Their findings suggest a “global-scale expansion” of these habitats, and a progression away from anaerobic ecosystems and toward photosynthetic communities before the oxygenation of the atmosphere. This work was published in the early edition of this week’s PNAS.

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  1. Microbial Production of Gases in the Deep Marine Subsurface


    Members of the Former University of Rhode Island Team, have published their latest findings on the production of ethane and propane in the deep subsurface in this week’s PNAS. The work stems from cores drilled on Leg 201 of the Ocean Drilling Program, February-March 2002. The Ocean Drilling Program is succeeded by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program which concluded it’s “Exploring Subseafloor Life” workshop this week in Vancouver.

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  1. A New Book on the Evoution of Earth’s Early Atmosphere


    With significant contribution from NAI’s Penn State University Team, a new book entitled “Evolution of Early Earth’s Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, and Biosphere – Constraints from Ore Deposits”, edited by Stephen E. Kesler and Hiroshi Ohmoto, is available. It grew from a 2002 Pardee Symposium held during the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting sponsored in part by the NAI.

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  1. Exotic Earths


    Collaborators from NAI’s Teams at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, and Penn State as well as the former Virtual Planetary Lab Team have a paper this week in Science discussing the possible formation of “Exotic Earths.” Their models have simulated terrestrial planet growth during and after inward giant planet migration. Their results cause them to speculate that more than a third of the known systems of giant planets may harbor Earth-like planets.

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  1. Earth’s Ancient Atmosphere: The Rise of Oxygen


    Most geologists agree that Earth’s atmosphere was oxygen-free until 2.4 billion years ago. But the latest research from NAI’s Pennsylvania State University team provides new evidence for alternative viewpoints. Ohmoto et al have published their latest results in this week’s Nature. Ohmoto’s team took samples from western Australia as a part of NAI’s Astrobiology Drilling Program.

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  1. Sulfur Cycling and Snowball Earth


    Pennsylvania State University Team members, Matt Hurtgen and colleagues, have just published a new paper in Earth and Planetary Science Letters on continental glaciers in the Neoproterozoic.

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  1. NAI Welcomes New Director


    Dr. Carl Pilcher, Senior Scientist for astrobiology at NASA Headquarters, Washington, has been appointed Director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) based at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. The appointment is effective Sept. 18, 2006. Pilcher succeeds Dr. Bruce Runnegar, who served as the third director of the NAI from 2003-2006. Runnegar is returning to his home institution, the University of California at Los Angeles in September.

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  1. Microbial Diversity in the Deep Sea


    NAI PI of the Marine Biological Laboratory Team, Mitch Sogin, and his team have published a new paper in PNAS documenting astonishing new findings of microbial diversity in the deep sea. The findings are the result of a new DNA technique called “454 tag sequencing.”

    Image courtesy of Micro*scope

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  1. Akilia Revisited


    Scientists from NAI’s UCLA and University of Colorado, Boulder Teams recently published their new geologic and geochemical analysis of the ancient rocks on Akilia Island in West Greenland which were the subject of a controversial Nature paper ten years ago. This new study includes a thorough geologic map of the area, and, using the ion-microprobe to analyze carbon inclusions in the rock, outlines a carbon isotopic ratio indicative of life’s signature. Their work appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Science.

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