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:
Today / Posted by: Shige Abe
- Identifying abiotic sources of organic compounds
- Synthesis and function of macromolecules in the origin of life ...
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 ...Yesterday / 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
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
Source: [Jet Propulsion Laboratory]
A global ocean lies beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s geologically active moon Enceladus, according to new research using data from NASA’s Cassini mission.
Researchers found the magnitude of the moon’s very slight wobble, as it orbits Saturn, can only be accounted for if its outer ice shell is not frozen solid to its interior, meaning a global ocean must be present.
The finding implies the fine spray of water vapor ...September 16, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
On the Arctic plains of northern Mars, NASA's Phoenix lander revealed a landscape of interlocking polygon shapes similar to those on Earth that form in permafrost when it freezes and thaws seasonally. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
The habitability of Mars is of interest to astrobiology, life detection, and planetary protection efforts, and permafrost is considered a Martian analogue environment. In 2013, a group of US and Russian scientists reported the isolation from a borehole in Siberian permafrost of several bacteria belonging to the genus Carnobacterium that could grow in the laboratory under a combination of Mars ...September 14, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Crystal structure of photosystem I: a photosynthetic reaction center and core antenna system from cyanobacteria. Credit: Jawahar Swaminathan and MSD staff, European Bioinformatics Institute, Wikimedia
Studying Carbon-13 (13C) metabolism in a microbial community can be a time-consuming and tricky prospect. This is because scientists often have to separate a single species out of the mix for study. However, if particular proteins are produced by a single species within the community, they can sometimes be extracted to yield information about the 13C metabolism of those organisms. A new study describes how the protein photosystem I (PSI) might be used as a ...September 3, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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