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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  1. Planets Around the Stars

    Researchers from NAI’s University of Washington, University of Colorado, Boulder, and Virtual Planetary Laboratory Teams have developed models testing planet formation in four known systems, 55 Cancri, HD 38529, HD 37124 and HD 74156. Placing Mars to Moon-sized planet embryos between giant planets and allowing them to evolve for 100 million years, they found terrestrial planets formed readily in 55 Cancri, sometimes with substantial water and orbits in the system’s habitable zone. They found HD 38529 is likely to support an asteroid belt and Mars-sized or smaller bodies but no notable terrestrial planets. No planets formed in HD ...

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  1. Father of Earth-Formation Models, Carnegie’s George Wetherill, Dies at 80

    Carnegie Institution planetary-formation theorist and founding NAI member, George Wetherill, died from heart failure on July 19, 2006, at his Washington, D.C., home. Wetherill’s work revolutionized planet and solar system formation through theoretical models.

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  1. NAI Scientists Successfully Drill Into Subglacial Lake

    Last month, scientists from NAI’s University of Hawai’i Team, in collaboration with Icelandic research institutes, successfully drilled into and sampled a lake deep beneath a glacier in Iceland. The lake and other subglacial lakes are the focus of studies of life in “extreme environments,” and may resemble potential habitats on Mars and icy satellites in the outer Solar System

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  1. Exovegetation!

    NAI’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory Team have explored the possibility of detecting exovegetation on terrestrial planets orbiting M stars. They estimated the red-shift of this surface feature using leaf optical property spectra with a three photon photosynthetic scheme. The authors have produced a model wherein a pigment-derived surface signature such as exovegetation could be detected, but would be dependent upon the extent of the vegetation on the surface, cloud cover, and viewing angle. Their paper is in the current issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

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  1. Strategies for Evolutionary Success – Sulfolipids

    Researchers from NAI’s University of Rhode Island Team and their colleagues have studied the use of phosphorus vs. sulfur in the membrane lipid sythesis pathways of organisms resident in the ocean’s subtropical gyres. Their data show that the dominant organism in the phytoplankton, a cyanobacterium, has evolved a “sulfur-for-phosphorus” strategy; producing a membrane lipid containing sulfate and sugar instead of phosphate. This adaptation may have been a major event in Earth’s early history when the relative availability of sulfate and phosphate was different than in today’s oceans. Their paper appears in the June 6th issue of ...

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  1. Arctic, Antarctic, Mars

    The city of Hammerfest lies at the northern tip of Norway, well above the Arctic Circle. If you board a ship heading north from there, just before you reach the polar ice cap you run into a group of islands known as the Svalbard archipelago.

    For the past two summers, a group of scientists has traveled to the largest of these islands to study an environment that sheds light on a notorious meteorite, discovered at the opposite end of the Earth, in Antarctica.

    The meteorite, ALH84001, began as a rather unremarkable piece of volcanic rock that formed about 4.5 ...

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  1. Amino Acids Found in Antarctic Meteorites

    Researchers from NAI’s NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Team and their colleagues publish their analysis of two meteorites in the current issue of Meteoritics and Planetary Science. Their study revealed a suite of amino acids present in the meteorites that are not present in the Antarctic ice on which they were found.

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