NAI

  1. PAH’s Responsible for “Red Glow”


    New work from NAI NASA Ames Research Center Team members and their colleagues published recently in PNAS suggests that the cause for much of the extended red emission, or ERE, is due to closed-shell cationic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, or PAH, dimers. Their work sheds light on the processes involved in carbonaceous dust evolution in the interstellar medium.

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  1. Taking the Ocean’s Pulse


    Near the town of Moss Landing, California, midway between Santa Cruz to the north and Monterey to the south, the Salinas River empties lazily out into the Pacific Ocean. What makes this otherwise unremarkable juncture unique is that it lies at the mouth of Monterey Canyon, one of the longest and deepest underwater canyons in continental North America. Virtually unknown, and largely unexplored, the sheer size of Monterey Canyon puts it squarely in league with its celebrated upcountry counterpart, the Grand Canyon. Which explains why not one but two major marine research centers – Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and Monterey Bay ...

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  1. The Virus Hunters


    Recently produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Company, “The Virus Hunters” is a fascinating look at viruses, from their role in disease to the possibility of being the oldest form of life on Earth. NAI Virus Focus Group chair Ken Stedman and his team are featured during one of their field trips to Lassen Volcanic National Park.

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  1. NAI Scientists Honored by American Society for Microbiology


    The American Society for Microbiology recently announced its 2007 General Meeting Award Laureates, and two NAI scientists have received honors. Mitch Sogin, PI of NAI’s Marine Biological Laboratory Team, is presented with the USFCC/J. Roger Porter Award for his research in environmental microbial diversity. Norm Pace, from NAI’s University of Colorado, Boulder Team, is presented with the Abbott/ASM Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions and research in the field of microbial ecology. Congratulations Norm and Mitch!

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  1. Extreme Life in China’s Deserts


    Searching for clues to the potential for life on Mars, NASA astrobiologists recently explored microbial communities in China’s northwest region-some of the world’s oldest, driest and most remote deserts. They found evidence suggesting that conditions there may be similar to those in certain regions of Mars. The study was funded in part by Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP).

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  1. NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Images Seas on Titan


    Instruments on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have found evidence for seas, likely filled with liquid methane or ethane, in the high northern latitudes of Saturn’s moon Titan. One such feature is larger than any of the Great Lakes of North America and is about the same size as several seas on Earth.

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  1. DEPTHX Tests the Waters for Future Exploration of Europa


    The Deep Phreatic Thermal eXplorer, or DEPTHX, is preparing for another series of dives into a 115-meter deep geothermal sinkhole in Mexico. These dives follow a series of successful tests dives to shakedown the vehicle’s autonomous navigation and mapping capabilities. Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) funds the DEPTHX project as a study to develop technology that could one day allow a waterborne explorer to probe the ocean thought to exist beneath the icy outer shell covering Europa.

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  1. A New Model for the Early Ocean


    NAI’s Marine Biological Laboratory and Carnegie Institution of Washington Teams are contributing authors on a new paper in Earth and Planetary Science Letters presenting a new model for the evolution of Proterozoic deep seawater composition based on rare earth elements. Their data suggest transitional, suboxic conditions in the deep ocean (vs. sulfidic), which likely limited nutrient concentrations in seawater and, consequently, may have constrained biological evolution.

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  1. NAI Graduate Student Selected to Help Plan for Future Mars EVA


    NAI graduate student Irene Schneider from Penn State has been selected by NASA/Mars Society as crew physicist for the upcoming expedition 61 for the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS). MDRS Crew 61 is a two week mission simulation where NASA, in collaboration with The Mars Society, simulates future manned missions to Mars. There she will be developing and helping implement the first Extra-Vehicular Activity emergency radiation protocols.

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  1. Salinity of Europa’s Ocean


    New research from NAI’s SETI Institute Team published online in Icarus today outlines the empirical range of salt concentrations permitted for Europa’s ocean. Solutions within the range imply high, near-saturation salt concentrations and require a Europan ice shell of less than 15 km thick, with a best fit at 4 km ice thickness. The paper examines the implications for subsurface habitability.

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  1. Spectra of Two Extrasolar Planets


    Researchers from NAI’s Carnegie Institution of Washington and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Teams have a new paper in Nature describing the infrared spectrum of exoplanet HD 209458b as obtained by the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope. Scientists from NAI’s University of Arizona and Alumni Virtual Planetary Laboratory Teams are contributing authors on a similar paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters which details the spectrum of exoplanet HD 189733b. Both sets of results show relatively flat spectra, with no significant absorption by water or methane, in contrast with the predictions of most atmospheric models. One spectral feature of HD 209458b ...

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  1. Astrobiologists Discuss Mars Habitability on NPR


    Last week, NAI scientists were featured in a live broadcast of NPR’s Science Friday. Tune in to hear how astrobiologists are following the water and the energy, trying to target those parts of the planet most likely to harbor life. Plus, learn how the rovers Spirit and Opportunity have changed our ideas about the Martian environment, and what evidence future missions will look for.

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  1. Biogeochemistry and Oxygenic Photosynthesis


    Researchers from NAI’s University of Colorado, Boulder Team recently reported in Earth and Planetary Science Letters their new biogeochemical model relating to the Great Oxidation Event. With ion microprobe data for individual sulfides from water-lain sedimentary units in the 2.45–2.22 Ga Huronian Supergroup, the team proposes a new model where enhanced weathering rates during interglacial thawing stimulated blooms of oxygenic photosynthesis, the demise of methane, and ultimately the irreversible rise in atmospheric oxygen between the first and second Huronian glaciations. The paper’s lead author was also the recipient of an NAI Research Scholarship in 2004.

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  1. Greenhouse Gases on Early Earth Helped Keep It Warm


    A team of researchers including members of NAI’s University of Colorado, Boulder Team have provided the first direct field evidence supporting the theory that high concentrations of greenhouse gases could have helped avoid global freezing on the early Earth. They analyzed iron carbonates from 3.75-3.8 billion year old rocks in northern Québec, and conclude that the atmosphere of early Earth contained high levels of CO2. Their paper appears in a recent issue of Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

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  1. Liquid Water on Mars: Is It Still Flowing?


    The scientific strategy of NASA’s Mars exploration can be summarized as “Follow the water.” The habitability of Mars, past or present, is intimately tied to the presence of liquid water. Since the first orbiting spacecraft, Mariner 9, surveyed the planet in the early 1970s, we have known that the Mars polar caps are composed in part of ice, and we have seen large channels cut by water that flowed on the surface billions of years ago. Two of the most important recent discoveries on Mars were “gullies” that indicate much more recent surface flows, less than a million years old, and the evidence from rovers on the surface that shallow ponds or seas of salty water must have once existed, although they may have been transient. However, all these indications of surface water are old – whether the age is measured in millions or billions of years. Now, in what looks to be one of the most important recent discoveries about Mars, we have photographic evidence that flows of liquid water have taken place in the past seven years! The change of perspective from billions or millions of years to something that happened in the twenty-first century could be profound.

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