Life is thought to have originated on Earth via processes in which organic compounds self-organized into systems which are capable of replication and exhibit natural selection. Further evolution then led to modern biochemical systems. One key to this process is thought to be mineral-organic interactions. Research into mineral-organic interfaces could help astrobiologists understand the origin of life on our planet and the potential for Earth-like life on other worlds in the Universe.
Recently, a team of astrobiologists led by H. James Cleaves of the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science has performed an extensive review of the current state of ...
Astrobiologists are shining a light into the dark and mysterious world of organisms that live in our planet’s rocks and sediments. In the journal PNAS, the team has reported the first detailed data on methane-exhaling microbes that live deep in the cracks of hot undersea volcanoes. The study involves methanogens – microbes that inhale hydrogen and carbon dioxide to produce methane as waste – and could help scientists better understand natural gas formation on Earth. The data will advance our knowledge of biogeochemical cycles in the deep ocean. The project also addresses questions about how metabolic processes on the early Earth ...August 13, 2012 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Astrobiologists at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University have performed a comprehensive analysis of the organic composition of ancient asteroidal remnants that fell to Earth called carbonaceous chondrites (CRs). CRs are unique in that, once having been part of asteroids, they have avoided the geological reprocessing that larger planets and moons have undergone, thus preserving a record of the conditions of the early solar system. Studying these materials is like experiencing time travel!
The study, published recently in PNAS, shows that several CR compounds, including amino acids, show no or minimal exposure to water. The team also analyzed ...
With support from the NASA Astrobiology Program, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have discovered a new bacterial gene that could provide clues about how life survives in some of Earth’s most extreme environments.
The gene codes for a protein, named HpnR, that is responsible for producing bacterial lipids known as 3-methylhopanoids. These lipids could help prepare nutrient-starved microbes to make a sudden appearance in nature when conditions are favorable. It allows the organisms to survive in extreme, oxygen-depleted environments until food — such as methane and the oxygen needed to metabolize it — become available.
The lipid produced ...July 30, 2012 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
The NASA Astrobiology Program mourns the death of Dick Holland, treasured colleague and forefather of astrobiology.
Dick Holland died May 21, 2012 in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, just short of his 85th birthday. He was born in Mannheim, Germany and spent his early years there before coming to the U.S. in 1940.
He received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry (with high honors) from Princeton University in 1946 at the age of 19, served in the U.S. Army, then entered graduate school at Columbia University in 1947, receiving is master’s degree in 1948 and Ph.D. in 1952, both ...July 12, 2012 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Please join the NASA Astrobiology Program in congratulating these five scientists on their recent awards and accolades! From the left: Sue Brantley from Penn State was elected into the National Academy of Sciences in May, 2012; Dave Des Marais will receive the 2012 Alfred Treibs Award from the Geochemcial Society for achievements in organic chemistry; Lisa Kaltenegger of the Max Planck Institute received the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft in May, 2012 given to outstanding early career scientists in Germany; Sara Seager from MIT was awarded the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in the Physical Sciences from Tel Aviv ...July 6, 2012 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
The FameLab International event began today at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK with two rounds of semi-final competition. 19 competitors took the stage but only 10 emerged as finalists…one of which was our very own Brendan Mullan of Penn State, the FameLab Astrobiology winner!
The Grand Final will take place at 1pm EDT on Friday, June 15th and will be webcast, so tune in and show your support!June 13, 2012 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
To understand how the first cells transported ions across their membranes, researchers supported by the NASA Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology (Exo/Evo) program are studying simple channels used by fungi to kill off bacteria. The ability to shuffle ions in and out of a cell is clearly vital to life as we know it, but how the necessary membrane channels originated is a mystery. Andrew Pohorille, of NASA’s Ames Research Center, and his team are now studying how these simple “tunnels” could have developed the ability to regulate the flow of ions through them. A better understanding of ion ...
Several sessions at the 2012 Astrobiology Science Conference were broadcast live via Adobe Connect and recorded. An archive of talks from 18 sessions is now available for viewing online via the AbSciCon website.
Source: [AbSciCon]May 3, 2012 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Join us in congratulating Brendan Mullan from Pennsylvania State University on winning the 2012 FameLab Astrobiology competition! The Finals were held on Monday, April 16th during the Astrobiology Science Conference in Atlanta, GA. The judges selected one winner from among the 11 finalists, whose presentations can all be seen here. Brendan joins the winners of FameLab competitions from all over the world this June in the UK, and will represent the United States in the FameLab International Final event!
FameLab was set up in 2005 by Cheltenham Festivals in partnership with the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and ...May 1, 2012 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
NASA and the Library of Congress have announced the selection of David H. Grinspoon to be the first Baruch S. Blumberg NASA-Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology.
The chair, selected through an international competition, is named for the late Nobel Laureate and founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, Baruch “Barry” Blumberg. Applications are solicited by the Library of Congress and reviewed by a panel jointly established by the Library and NASA. The prestigious position was created in November 2011.
Grinspoon will be in residence for a year beginning November 2012 at the library’s scholarly research organization, the Kluge ...April 19, 2012 / Posted by: Marco Boldt
The 2012 FameLab Astrobiology Finals will be broadcast live on NASA TV as well as over the internet! The event will be held from 7-9 PM (EDT) on Monday, April 16th.
The livestream will be available at http://livestream.com/FameLabAstrobiology and at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv. Check local listings for the NASA TV channel number in your area.
FameLab Astrobiology is a science communication extravaganza! Over the past few months, more than 70 early career astrobiologists have gathered at sites across the USA (and on YouTube) to compete in FameLab Astrobiology preliminaries. Eleven have emerged as finalists.
Each ...April 12, 2012 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
A new study published in Nature from NASA’s Exobiology and Evoluationary Biology program investigators and their colleagues looks at fossilized raindrops and what they indicate about conditions on the early Earth.
In ancient Earth history, the sun burned as much as 30 percent dimmer than it does now. Theoretically that should have encased the planet in ice, but there is geologic evidence for rivers and ocean sediments between 2 billion and 4 billion years ago.
Scientists have speculated that temperatures warm enough to maintain liquid water were the result of a much thicker atmosphere, high concentrations of greenhouse gases ...
The undergraduate students, graduate students, and post docs of the astrobiology community are invited to apply to the 2012 Sao Paulo School of Advanced Science, held from 19-31 August, 2012 on Ilhabela, an archipelago 200km from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The school will be organized around the theme of evolution, addressing topics such as paleontology, phylogenetics, homology, and character evolution, and will feature instructors from both North and South America. Visit the School website for more information and application materials.April 1, 2012 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Building on #'s 1 and 2, issue #3 focuses on the robotic exploration of the inner solar system, and the legacy it has bequeathed to astrobiology. Once again, issue #3 delivers stunning graphics and a compelling storyline! Download a pdf or mobile app.
Join us for a special “book signing” event at AbSciCon! Bring your copies or get them there and meet Aaron Gronstal, the artist behind the astrobiology graphic novels!
For copies of issue #3, please contact Daniella Scalice at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: [NASA Astrobiology Program]March 21, 2012 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice