An artist concept image of where seven carefully-selected instruments will be located on NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. The instruments will conduct unprecedented science and exploration technology investigations on the Red Planet as never before. Image Credit: NASA
NASA has announced seven carefully-selected instruments that will make up the payload of the next rover being sent to Mars. The Mars 2020 rover is based on the successful design of Curiosity, which is currently exploring the martian surface. The new rover’s payload consists of upgraded hardware and new instruments that will study geology and the potential habitability of the martian ...August 1, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
This view looks across the geyser basin of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, along fractures spewing water vapor and ice particles into space. Cassini scientists have pinpointed the source locations of about 100 geysers and gained new insights into what powers them. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI
Two papers published in the Astronomical Journal represent the first comprehensive study of the connections between geysers, tidal stresses, and thermal emissions at the south pole of Enceladus.
In the first study, researchers used 6.5 years of data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to identify 101 geysers erupting from the ...July 30, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
This is an artistic illustration of the gas giant planet HD 209458b (unofficially named Osiris) located 150 light-years away in the constellation Pegasus. This is a "hot Jupiter" class planet.
Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have gone looking for water vapor in the atmospheres of three planets orbiting stars similar to the Sun — and have come up nearly dry.
The three planets, HD 189733b, HD 209458b, and WASP-12b, are between 60 and 900 light-years away. These giant gaseous worlds are so hot, with temperatures between 1,500 and 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, that they are ideal candidates for ...July 25, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Due to its high iron content, the acidic Río Tinto river flows like red wine through a multicolored and rocky landscape. The Río Tinto has an average pH of 2.3, which is acidic enough to eat metal. Image credit: Leslie Mullen
Astrobiologists have outlined how geochemistry and metabolism are connected in subsurface microbial ecosystems beneath Spain’s Rio Tinto region. The Iberian Pyrite Belt (IPB) in the Río Tinto area is the largest known deposit of sulfide on Earth, and for decades it has been a field-site for scientists studying chemolithotrophic microbes.
In the early 2000 ...July 24, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Motivated by the rapidly increasing number of known Earth-sized planets, the increasing range of extreme conditions in which life on Earth can persist, and the progress toward a technology that will ultimately enable the search for life on exoplanets, the Vatican Observatory and the Steward Observatory conducted a major conference entitled The Search for Life Beyond the Solar System: Exoplanets, Biosignatures & Instruments in March, 2014.
All the sessions were recorded and are archived here.
The conference brought together the interdisciplinary community required to address this multi-faceted challenge: experts on exoplanet observations, early and extreme life on Earth, atmospheric biosignatures, and ...July 18, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Just like Earth, Venus and Mars may once have been watery worlds. Image Credit: ESA
“An origin of life is not the same as an origin of a biosphere—that’s an important distinction,” says David Grinspoon, planetary scientist, curator of astrobiology for the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and the first Baruch S. Blumberg NASA-Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology.
To illustrate the concept Grinspoon offers a simple analogy. Say you’re starting a camp fire. It’s easy to get it to spark up, but you have to tend it first or it may just ...
A sunflower-shaped ‘starshade’ launched to space with a simple telescope could help scientists on the ground hunt for another Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech
Before the invention of the telescope, before every continent was on a map, even before the revelation that Earth was not the center of the Universe, humans have wondered at the possibility of life beyond our planet. Now, scientists know there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone (one of 10 billion galaxies in the mere observable Universe), and 10-20 percent of these stars could have earth-size planets within the habitable zone ...
Data management and sharing are growing concerns for scientists and funding organizations throughout the world. Funding organizations are implementing requirements for data management plans, while scientists are establishing new infrastructures for data sharing. One of the difficulties is sharing data among a diverse set of research disciplines. Astrobiology is a unique community of researchers, containing over 110 different disciplines.
In this new study, the results of a survey of data management practices among scientists involved in the astrobiology community and the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) in particular are presented. The results of the survey show that the astrobiology community shares ...July 14, 2014 / Written by: Daniella Scalice
The Licancabur volcano (5,917 m elevation – 19,800 ft) from Bolivia. Photo Credit: The High Lakes Project: The SETI Institute Carl Sagan Center/NASA Ames/ NAI
Astrobiologists from the United States and Germany have recorded the highest level of UV radiation from the Sun yet known at the Earth’s surface.
You might expect the highest radiation levels of this type on Earth to be somewhere in Antarctica – underneath the hole in Earth’s ozone layer. This layer of Earth’s stratosphere contains higher concentrations of ozone gas (O3) than the rest of the atmosphere, and ...July 11, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
NASA Television will air a panel discussion of leading science and engineering experts on Monday, July 14, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. EDT, who will describe the scientific and technological roadmap that will lead to the discovery of potentially habitable worlds among the stars.
The public is invited to attend or view the event, which will take place in the Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E Street SW in Washington.
Space and ground observatories are cataloging and characterizing hundreds and what is expected to eventually be thousands of potentially habitable worlds in our galaxy. NASA space-based observatories ...July 10, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
How do we define “life?” This fundamental question has remained largely philosophical, because it has been asked for so long, by so many, and with so few concrete conclusions.
In this seminar, produced by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, Dr. Steven Benner takes a different tack. He shows how laboratory studies can create a second example of life, helping us develop a firmer scientific understanding of what life is. The challenge of “synthetic biology” is on!
Dr. Benner discusses how we are hitchhiking on rockets, rovers, and telescopes to find life elsewhere in the Solar System, and describes how his research ...July 9, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
In this fascinating interview, the Huffington Post’s Suzan Mazur talks with NAI Principal Investigator Nigel Goldenfeld, of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. They discuss the emergence of a new theory of life, the nature of the evolutionary process, the origin of life, and more.
“Our collaborative position was that the Modern Synthesis is simply not enough,” said Goldenfeld, “population genetics is not a full account of the evolution process because it manifestly does not describe evolution before genes, it does not describe evolution before there were species and the lineages. The Modern Synthesis wasn’t designed to do so ...
View of the possible inner planets of the Gliese 581 system along with their star, a red dwarf. Credit: Lynette Cook
What astronomers thought were a pair of potentially life-friendly alien worlds are illusions, apparitions conjured up by a star’s intense magnetic activity, a new NAI-funded study suggests.
These new findings could one day not only help astronomers dispel more such illusory exoplanets, but discover worlds that would otherwise remain hidden, scientists added. A new video about the possible cosmic illusions also details the finding.
Astronomers have confirmed the existence of more than 1,700 planets beyond the solar ...
Venus can be seen as a black dot eclipsing the Sun in this image from 2012. Venus orbits too close to the Sun to the planet to be habitable for life as we know it. Venus experiences a runaway greenhouse and the average surface temperatures are thought to be around 864ºF. Image Credit: NASA/SDO & the AIA, EVE, and HMI teams; Digital Composition: Peter L. Dove
Astrobiologists supported by the Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology element of the Astrobiology Program have shed new light on the future habitability of Earth. The tools they are using could also tell us about habitability around distant stars ...July 4, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Erik Fischer, a doctoral student in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences at the University of Michigan, sets up a Mars Atmospheric Chamber in the Space Research Building on June 18, 2014. The chamber simulates the atmospheric conditions of Mars in hopes of producing water through the interaction of salt with the atmospheric conditions simulated by the chamber. The resulting research allows Astrobiologists to postulate about the potential of life on Mars. Credit: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing
Astrobiologists supported by the Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology element of the NASA Astrobiology Program have discovered that a salt on Mars could cause liquid water to form when it comes into contact with water ice. The study was inspired by images from NASA’s Phoenix mission, which showed what appeared to be droplets of liquid water on a leg of the lander.
Researchers determined that liquid water could be stable on Mars if it was very salty – a possibility that arose when calcium perchlorate was identified on the martian surface by missions including Phoenix and the Curiosity ...July 3, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
- April 29 - Abstract Submission Deadline for European Planetary Science Congress 2015
- April 30 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 3rd International Workshop on Microbial Life Under Extreme Energy Limitation
- April 30 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Comparative Climates of Terrestrial Planets II: Understanding How Climate Systems Work (CCTP2)
- May 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 6th International Conference on Polar and Alpine Microbiology
- May 3 - Joint Assembly AGU, GAC, MAC, CGU
- May 4 - Comparative Tectonics and Geodynamics of Venus, Earth, and Rocky Exoplanets
- May 13 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 78th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society
- May 25 - 1st Advanced School on Exoplanetary Science
- May 28 - Emerging Researchers in Exoplanet Science Symposium (ERES)
- May 31 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 2nd Symposium of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR 2015): Water and Life in the Universe
- May 31 - Application Deadline for Gordon Research Conference on Origins of Solar Systems
- May 31 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Life in a Cosmic Context - 5th Workshop of the Italian Astrobiology Society
- June 2 - Workshop on the Formation of the Solar System II
- June 5 - Application Deadline for Berkner Autumn Program 2015