Bands of the late Archean Mt. McRae Shale from the ABDP-9 core. The drill project was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Program and the National Science Foundation. Image Credit: Arizona State University photo by Tim Trumble
A study on selenium (Se) isotopes in Australia’s Mount McRae Shale supports the theory that oxygenic photosynthesis originated long before the Great Oxidation Event (GOE), which occurred around 2.3 billion years ago. The Mount McRae Shale is a 2.5 billion-year-old formation and holds a record of enrichment and abundance of Se isotopes. The formation provides a means of studying levels of oxygen ...November 19, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Sunset on Saturn’s moon Titan reveals the atmosphere around the moon as seen from the night side with NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI
A recent laboratory study provides new insight into the atmospheric production of aerosols on Titan. Scientists used photochemistry and several mixtures of methane (CH4) and nitrogen gas (N2) to generate analogs of organic aerosols found in Titan’s atmosphere. The team analyzed the fractionation of carbon and nitrogen found in the aerosols they produced, providing clues as to how organic aerosols on Titan could ask as a sink for these major elements.
Studying how ...November 12, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Astronaut Alan L. Bean, Lunar Module pilot for the Apollo 12 lunar landing mission holds a container filled with lunar soil collected while exploring the lunar surface. Astronaut Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr., commander, who took this picture on November 20, 1969, is reflected in the helmet visor. Credit: NASA.
A team of NASA-funded scientists has solved an enduring mystery from the Apollo missions to the moon – the origin of organic matter found in lunar samples returned to Earth. Samples of the lunar soil brought back by the Apollo astronauts contain low levels of organic matter in the form ...October 29, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
A common borate mineral on Earth, colemanite. The Tohoku University Museum collection. Credit: Yoshihiro Furukawa/Tohoku University
Inspired by previous work on chemistry’s 'water problem’ and 'asphalt problem,’ a team of researchers has provided new insight into the conditions in which nucleosides combine with phosphate to form nucleoside phosphates, a key set of molecules found in RNA.
Chemistry’s 'water problem’ refers to the fact that nucleoside phosphates do not form in water because hydrolysis is a more thermodynamically stable reaction. Decades ago, scientists addressed this problem by using formamide as a solvent instead of water.
The 'asphalt problem’ refers ...October 15, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Illustration of the interior of Saturn's moon Enceladus showing a global liquid water ocean between its rocky core and icy crust. Image Credit: JPL
Starting today, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will begin a series of three close encounters with Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus. Images from the flyby are expected to begin arriving two days later, providing the first close-up view of the moon’s north polar region.
Since Cassini’s 2005 discovery of continually-erupting fountains of icy material on Enceladus, the Saturn moon has become one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for present-day habitable environments. Mission ...October 14, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
On September 29, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing entitled Astrobiology and the Search for Life Beyond Earth in the Next Decade. The hearing covered the scientific methods and recent discoveries in astrobiology, addressed the prospects of finding life beyond Earth, and provided an overview of NASA astrobiology programs and the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (“NExSS”) initiative. Testimonies were provided by Dr. Ellen Stofan of NASA, Dr. Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University, Dr. Jacob Bean of the University of Chicago and Dr. Andrew Siemion of SETI Research Center at UC Berkeley.
Source: [Committee on Science ...October 14, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
(1) The fictional Ares 3 landing site in southern Acidalia Planitia. (2) Carl Sagan Memorial Station (Landing site of the NASA Pathfinder mission) (3) Marwth Vallis (4) Meridiani Planum and the site of NASA's Opportunity rover (5) Schiaparelli crater
Mars has been a focus of astrobiology and exobiology research since the early days of NASA. Even before the invention of the telescope, Mars captured the imagination of scientists and philosophers who were interested in life’s potential beyond Earth.
With the Viking landers in the 1970s, Mars became the target of NASA’s first dedicated mission to search for life in ...October 12, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
The 2015 Astrobiology Strategy Identifies Priority Research for the NASA Astrobiology Program in the Next Decade
Over the past two years 800 members of the astrobiology community have contributed, through in person meetings, white papers, a series of webinars and reviews, to define a new strategy for the next decade of astrobiology research. Mary Voytek, the Senior Scientist for Astrobiology, and Michael New, the Astrobiology Discipline Scientist, described the goal of the endeavor to create an “inspirational and aspirational” document. The strategy will replace the 2008 Astrobiology Roadmap.
The six major research areas in the field of astrobiology described are:
October 9, 2015 / Posted by: Shige Abe
- Identifying abiotic sources of organic compounds
- Synthesis and function of macromolecules in the origin of life ...
To celebrate the men and women who have made great and lasting contributions to astrobiology, the NASA Astrobiology Institute has put together a film paying tribute to twelve scientists and leaders who have recently passed away. These individuals are remembered not only for their enduring work in the field, but as astrobiologists who touched the lives of many during their lifetime.October 9, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Calling all undergrads and grad students!
The NASA Astrobiology Debates Online Speech Competition (University Division) is an online speech competition in which U.S. college and university undergraduate and graduate students from across the nation will research, deliver, and upload original speeches responding to the 2015-16 NASA Astrobiology Debates Topic:
Resolved: An overriding ethical obligation to protect and preserve extraterrestrial microbial life and ecosystems should be incorporated into international law.
Submissions will be judged based on the quality of scholarship and arguments, originality and creativity, and presentation. The competition is now OPEN and students may submit their speeches at anytime ...October 7, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Dr. David Blake presents the Chemistry and Mineralogy Instrument (CheMin) currently operating on NASA’s Curiosity rover, helping scientists to study the mineral composition of Mars’ surface.
Blake is the principal investigator for the CheMin project and serves as a senior scientist in the Exobiology branch of NASA Ames Research Center. A previous interview in which he discusses his work in astrobiology, exobiology, CheMin and the Curiosity mission can be found in the Astrobiology Magazine.
The video is part of NASA’s My Martian Moment series.October 2, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
The Institute for Planets and Life presents the Planets, Life, and the Universe Lecture Series, an opportunity to hear scientists share their insights on current topics of interest in astrobiology. More information on the series schedule and links to live and archived webcasts are available at: http://www.stsci.edu/institute/smo/ipl/lecture.
Series Schedule (all lectures are 12:00PM-2:30PM EST)
Oct 2 – Steven Benner (Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution) – Searching for, or Creating Ourselves, a Second Example of Life
Nov 6 – Sarah Hörst (Johns Hopkins University, Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences) – ...September 30, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
These dark, narrow, 100 meter-long streaks called recurring slope lineae flowing downhill on Mars are inferred to have been formed by contemporary flowing water. Recently, planetary scientists detected hydrated salts on these slopes at Hale crater, corroborating their original hypothesis that the streaks are indeed formed by liquid water. The blue color seen upslope of the dark streaks are thought not to be related to their formation, but instead are from the presence of the mineral pyroxene. The image is produced by draping an orthorectified (Infrared-Red-Blue/Green(IRB)) false color image (ESP_030570_1440) on a Digital Terrain Model (DTM) of the ...September 28, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Hubble image of the chaotic-looking mass of gas and dust of a nearby supernova remnant. Radiation from sources in our galaxy could have had a profound effect on mutation rates throughout the history of life on Earth. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/HEIC and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Studying ancient life on Earth is important for astrobiologists who are interested in how speciation and radiation occurred throughout the history of our planet. However, it’s not always easy to pinpoint these events in time. For instance, when looking back at the history of life, there is a disparity between fossil ...September 22, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Image Credit: NASA
Searching for Life on Mars With PIXL and the Mars 2020 Rover Mission
Presenter: Abigail Allwood (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
When: September 21, 2015 1:00PM PDT
Finding conclusive evidence of primitive microbial life in multi-billion-year-old rocks is exceptionally difficult, as illustrated by doubt surrounding the interpretation of Earth’s earliest fossil record. Seeking evidence of ancient life on Mars is an even greater challenge – one that will be taken up by NASA’s ambitious new 2020 rover mission. 2020 builds on the success of the 2011 Curiosity rover and 2004 Mars Exploration Rovers, and is informed ...September 17, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh