Image credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Imagine a world without liquid water — just solid ice in all directions. It would certainly not be a place that most life forms would like to live.
And yet our planet has gone through several frozen periods, in which a runaway climate effect led to global, or near global, ice cover. The last of these so-called “Snowball Earth” glaciations ended around 635 million years ago when complex life was just starting to develop. It’s still uncertain if ice blanketed the entire planet, or if some mechanism was able to halt ...August 27, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
A view of a hydrothermal vent at the Main Endeavour Field on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, snapped from the submersible Alvin. Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Astrobiologists have uncovered two reaction pathways at hydrothermal vents that could produce organic compounds relevant to the origin of life on Earth and other worlds. For the origin of life as we know it, organic compounds need to be formed from inorganic precursors. Theories suggest that natural reactions could form these compounds at hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, where warm fluids rich in hydrogen are released.
In a study supported by the ...August 20, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
NASA Postdoctoral Program (http://nasa.orau.org/postdoc/)
The NASA Astrobiology Program is pleased to welcome four new Fellows to the NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (NPP). They are:
Ashleigh Hood ”Integrated geochemical-petrographic insights on Earth’s oxygenation from Precambrian carbonates”
Advisor: Noah Planavsky (NAI University of California, Riverside Team, Yale University)
Nagayasu Nakanishi ”Investigating the early evolution of neuronal signaling mechanisms in animals”
Advisor: Mark Martindale (Exobiology, University of Florida)
Stephanie Weldon ”Swapping partners mid-dance: Symbiotic replacement in a tightly integrated intrabacterial, intracellular nested mutualism”
Advisor: John McCutcheon (NAI University of Montana, Missoula team)
Kristin Woycheese ”Methane and sulfur ...August 17, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Air showers ensuing from very-high-energy cosmic rays can enter Earth’s atmosphere from multiple directions. Credit: Simon Swordy/NASA
Previously, studies have found that airplane crews at high altitude are exposed to potentially harmful levels of radiation from cosmic rays. But could these cosmic rays pose hazards even at sea level?
A new NASA-funded investigation has found radiation from solar events is too weak to cause worry at ground level. Results have just been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research and hailed as one of three “Editor’s Choice” publications for the first quarter of 2015 by Space Weather ...July 28, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
This artist's concept compares Earth (left) to the new planet, called Kepler-452b, which is about 60 percent larger in diameter. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle
NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another “Earth.”
The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone — the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting ...July 23, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Audiences pack the Grand Hall for the AbSciCon 2015 Regional Heat of the FameLab USA competition. Credit: NASA Astrobiology
Astrobiologists gathered in Chicago, Illinois, from June 15-19th for the 2015 Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon). Researchers from a multitude of disciplines, and representing institutions from around the world, used the conference as a forum to report new discoveries, share data, initiate and advance collaborative efforts, plan new projects, and educate the next generation of astrobiologists.
“AbSciCon reflects the importance of astrobiology in supporting NASA’s current and ongoing missions,” said Mary Voytek, Program Scientist for Astrobiology at NASA.
Peter Doran, the ...July 17, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
AbGradCon 2015 webcast (July 20-22) available at http://abgradcon.org/remote.html and http://saganet.org/page/saganlive
The NAI-sponsored Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) 2015 will be held on July 19-23, 2015 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Those unable to attend in person can still participate via live webcast. The stream will start at 8AM CDT on July 20, 21, and 22 at http://abgradcon.org/remote.html. You can also view the webcast and join in a live chat on the SAGANet site: http://saganet.org/page/saganlive.
AbGradCon offers a unique opportunity for graduate students and early career ...July 15, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
The "Dynamic Duo" photo of Pluto and Charon taken by the New Horizons spacecraft on July 8, 2015 from 3.7 million miles away. Credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI
Excitement builds as the public waits for the New Horizons spacecraft to fly by Pluto on July 14, 2015. The flyby will create a landmark in our understanding of Pluto’s atmosphere, geology, and other surface conditions and increase our understanding of what lies further on in the Kuiper Belt.
Because extremely cold temperatures make present-day volcanic activity and circulation of biogenic elements on the icy surface impossible, neither Pluto nor its moons are ...July 13, 2015 / Written by: Miki Huynh
The fifth regional heat of FameLab USA’s Season 3 took place at the 2015 Astrobiology Science Conference in Chicago. Credit: NASA Astrobiology
The fifth regional heat of FameLab USA’s Season 3 took place in Chicago, IL, on June 13-15 in conjunction with the 2015 Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon).
Fifteen early career scientists participated, and the research represented covered everything from the geological history of Earth to planetary atmospheres and the search for life on planets beyond our solar system! The first round of competition was held in The Field Museum of Chicago.
Ten of the fifteen participants advanced ...June 25, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Ice Ages that covered much of the world in glaciers are thought to have occurred twice during the Cryogenian period, between about 720 and 660 million years ago, and again from 650 to 640 million years ago. Credit: NSF
Researchers have discovered what they think are fossils of a unique red algae species that lived about 650 million years ago during a brief respite between some of the most extreme ice ages the world has ever known. The fossils could speak to how life coped in the aptly named Cryogenian period, when glaciers held most of Earth ...
An outcrop of fossil bivalve shells from the Miocene. Credit: UC Berkeley
Researchers studying living and fossil marine bivalves are providing new insights into how geographic range relates to the evolution of diversity in families of organisms. The study, supported in part by the Exobiology & Evolutionary Biology element of the NASA Astrobiology Program, focuses on how an organism’s position in a morphospace can affect evolution.
A 'morphospace’ is a way of representing an organism’s possible form, shape or structure. A morphospace has multiple dimensions, and each axis corresponds to a different character of the organism being studied. A single point on the morphospace represents an individual organism in the population.
The study ...June 22, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
FameLab USA Facebook Page
Season 3, Regional Heat #5 at AbSciCon in Chicago, IL
The next FameLab USA competition will be held Saturday, June 13th, Sunday, June 14th & Monday, June 15th, during the 2015 Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon).
For more information, visit: http://famelab-eeb.arc.nasa.gov/competitions/season3-abscicon2015/.
The preliminary competition round, lunch and the communications workshop will be held at the:
Chicago Field Museum
Lecture Hall 2
1400 South Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
The evening competition round and reception will be held at the:
Hilton Downtown Chicago
Hilton Downtown Chicago Ballroom
720 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago ...June 11, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
A 3-D view of a model protocell (a primitive cell) approximately 100 nanometers in diameter modeled by a team of researchers at Harvard University. Credit: Janet Iwasa/NSF
Protocells are thought to be precursors to life’s first living cells and, in their simplest form, are a self-organized spheres of lipids. New research is providing insight into the environment in which protocells on the early Earth could have formed. The work indicates that protocells may have been crowded by small molecules and polymers. This crowding could have affected reaction rates, changed the structure and activity of water, and even enhanced the ...June 10, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Artist concept of the early Earth. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab
Understanding the origin of bio-organic molecules is a key step in determining how life on Earth began. In 1953, the Miller-Urey experiment showed that amino acids can be produced by electrical discharges in simple gases. Ever since then, scientists have demonstrated that many organic compounds can be formed from non-biological processes.
Astrobiologists are now trying to determine how biomolecules used by life were selected from the complex mixture of molecules that may have been available on the early Earth. Of particular interest is the ...June 5, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
William J. Borucki awarded 2015 Shaw Prize. Credit: Service to American Medals/NASA
William J. (Bill) Borucki has been awarded the 2015 Shaw Prize in Astronomy. The announcement of this prestigious award, often referred to as the “Nobel of the East,” was announced yesterday in Hong Kong. The prize honors Bill for “his conceiving and leading the Kepler mission, which greatly advanced knowledge of both extrasolar planetary systems and stellar interiors.” The award will be presented on September 24, and is accompanied by a prize of $1,000,000 (US).
Bill is in his 53rd year as a devoted civil ...June 4, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh