NAI

  1. NAI Director’s Seminar Series: Victoria Orphan


    Victoria Orphan. Credit: mbari.org Victoria Orphan. Credit: mbari.org

    Victoria Orphan, Professor of Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology, will be presenting the next NAI Director’s Seminar on April 21, 2014, at 11AM PDT.

    Orphan is a specialist in molecular microbial ecology. She studies anaerobic microbial communities involved in carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycling. The title of her talk is “Methane-Based Life in a Deep-Sea Concrete Jungle.”

    For more information and details on how to join the event, click here.

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  1. From Soup to Cells: Measuring the Emergence of Life


    Sara Walker, assistant professor at Arizona State University. Credit: BEYOND, ASU Sara Walker, assistant professor at Arizona State University. Credit: BEYOND, ASU

    Astrobiologist Sara Walker is exploring ways to measure the transition from non-living to living matter. Her approach could broaden our understanding of how unique—or common—life might be in the Universe.

    The story of life’s origin is one of the great unsolved mysteries of science. The puzzle boils down to bridging the gap between two worlds—chemistry and biology. We know how molecules behave, and we know how cells work. But we still don’t know how a soup of lifeless molecules could have given rise to ...

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  1. Producing Prebiotic Chemistry by Impacting Ice


    Compounds dissociate to form functionalized aromatic hydrocarbons upon expansion and cooling to ambient conditions. Credit: Adapted from Goldman and Tamblyn, 2013. Compounds dissociate to form functionalized aromatic hydrocarbons upon expansion and cooling to ambient conditions. Credit: Adapted from Goldman and Tamblyn, 2013.

    Astrobiologists have provided new information about how comets and asteroids could have delivered prebiotic chemical compounds to the early Earth. The team studied how shock pressures can lead to the production of a number of compounds that could have been used in life’s origins. They performed their study by simulating impacts into an icy mixture rich in carbon dioxide.

    Impacts that generated only moderate pressures were needed to produce aromatic hydrocarbons when the mixture was heated, expanded and ...

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  1. Early Career Seminar: Paula Welander


    Early Career Seminar: Paula Welander Early Career Seminar: Paula Welander

    Hopanoid Biosynthesis and Function in Methanotrophic Bacteria

    Paula Welander of Stanford University will be presenting the next Early Career Seminar on April 7, 2014, at 11am PDT. Welander studies molecular fossils in order to better understand how microbial communities in the past altered the Earth’s surface environment and impacted life’s evolution on our planet.

    Details of Welander’s upcoming talk can be found here.

    Source: [Early Career Seminars]

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  1. Perchlorate Radiolysis on Mars


    The Viking 1 lander dug trenches on Mars to collect samples for later analysis. Credit: NASA The Viking 1 lander dug trenches on Mars to collect samples for later analysis. Credit: NASA

    Astrobiologists supported by the Exobiology element of NASA’s Astrobiology Program have provided new information about the survival of biosignatures on Mars. Their study also provides new insight into data from a NASA mission that was sent to the red planet almost 40 years ago.

    In 1976, NASA’s twin Viking probes landed on Mars to search for signs of microbial life. The data they returned created a great deal of debate. The new study published last autumn in the journal Astrobiology reveals details ...

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  1. Clues to Atmospheric Evolution in Earth’s Earliest Sediments


    Earth’s thin atmosphere is all that stands between life on Earth and the cold, dark void of space. Credit: NASA Earth’s thin atmosphere is all that stands between life on Earth and the cold, dark void of space. Credit: NASA

    The next Early Career Seminar will be presented on April 14 by Mark Claire of the University of East Anglia. Claire will present research undertaken as a member of the NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP). His work focuses on the atmospheric composition of the early Earth, and identifying constraints beyond the absence of oxygen.

    Claire’s talk is part of a series of seminars where NASA Astrobiology NPP Fellows who have completed their fellowships present their results. Please join us ...

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  1. A Protein for Photosynthesis in Ancient Microorganisms


    A deep-sea hydrothermal vent. Credit: Photo courtesy of Chris Germen, WHOI/NSF, NASA/ROV Jason 2012, at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution A deep-sea hydrothermal vent. Credit: Photo courtesy of Chris Germen, WHOI/NSF, NASA/ROV Jason 2012, at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    A new study reports that a protein used in plant photosynthesis could have originated 2.5 billion years ago in methanogenic microbes – long before oxygen levels rose in Earth’s atmosphere. The research was supported in part by the Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology (Exo/Evo) element of the NASA Astrobiology program.

    When studying Methanocaldococcus jannaschii, a methanogen that lives in deep-sea hydrothermal vent environments, the team found a protein called thioredoxin. This protein plays a regulatory role in photosynthesis ...

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  1. NASA Astrobiology NPP Alumni Seminar Series: Jennifer Glass


    The image to the left shows Jennifer Glass working in a chamber where she can control the oxygen levels to mimic the deep sea environment. On the right is an example of marine gas hydrates on the sea The image to the left shows Jennifer Glass working in a chamber where she can control the oxygen levels to mimic the deep sea environment. On the right is an example of marine gas hydrates on the sea floor. Credit: Rob Felt (left image); US Department of Energy (right image)

    On March 3, 2014, Dr. Jennifer Glass of the Georgia Institute of Technology (GA Tech) will present the second in our series of talks from alumni of the NASA Astrobiology NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP). In her talk, “Microbes, Methane and Metals: Insights From Geochemistry, Omics and Single Cell Imaging,” Glass ...

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  1. NAI Director’s Seminar Series: Henderson Cleaves


    Voyager Views Titan's Haze. There is a lot of interesting chemistry occurring in Titan's dense atmosphere. Credit: Voyager Project, JPL, NASA Voyager Views Titan's Haze. There is a lot of interesting chemistry occurring in Titan's dense atmosphere. Credit: Voyager Project, JPL, NASA

    Henderson (Jim) Cleaves of the Carnegie Institution of Washington will present the next talk in the NAI Director’s Seminar Series on February 10 at 11:00 AM PST.

    Amino Acid Analysis of Titan Tholins and Comparison With Other Prebiotic Reaction Systems

    Titan’s atmospheric chemistry produces a host of discrete organic chemical products. It is likewise well known than Miller-Urey type reactions produce a host of complex discrete organic products. We have examined various complex reaction ...

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  1. Astrobiology Future Webinars – Next Steps


    As we are rapidly approaching the end of the end of this stage of the Astrobiology Strategy planning, we would like to thank everyone that has participated as a presenter or author, commented on a white paper or at a webinar, or even just listened in to one of the presentations. If you have not yet had the opportunity to listen to a particular webinar or comment on a particular white paper, they are all available on the website astrobiologyfuture.org. However, please visit the website soon, as we will be closing the papers to comments on Friday, February 14th ...

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  1. Astrobiology Graphic History – Issue #4!


    Panels from Astrobiology: The Story of our Search for Life in the Universe, Issue #4. Credit: NASA Astrobiology Panels from Astrobiology: The Story of our Search for Life in the Universe, Issue #4. Credit: NASA Astrobiology

    The fourth issue of the Astrobiology Graphic History book is now available! Download the digital version here (or the mobile-optimized version here)!

    Issue #4 maintains the gorgeous look and feel of the series, and continues the captivating story of Exo and Astrobiology. This installment explores astrobiology’s role in missions to the outer Solar System. See how science helped shape the exploration of gas giants and icy worlds beyond our system’s main asteroid belt.

    While spacecraft plied the distant corners of ...

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  1. NASA Astrobiology NPP Alumni Seminar Series: Sara Walker


    Sara Walker, assistant professor at Arizona State University. Credit: BEYOND, ASU Sara Walker, assistant professor at Arizona State University. Credit: BEYOND, ASU

    On February 3, 2014, Sara Walker of Arizona State University (ASU) will present the first in a series of seminars from alumni of the NASA Astrobiology NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP). In her talk, “Information Hierarchies, Chemical Evolution and the Transition From Non-Living to Living Matter,” Walker will discuss topics related to the emergence of life… and how to define ‘almost life.’

    Sara Walker is an assistant professor at the BEYOND Center in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU. Walker specializes in theoretical physics and astrobiology, and ...

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  1. David Grinspoon: Science and a Wisely Managed Earth


    Dr. David Grinspoon delivered the 2013 Carl Sagan Lecture presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. An outgrowth of his work as the first NASA—Library of Congress Baruch S. Blumberg Chair in Astrobiology, the talk is entitled “Terra Sapiens: The Role of Science in Fostering a Wisely Managed Earth.”

    Click here to watch a video of Dr. Grinspoon’s lecture.

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  1. The Oldest Signs of Life on Earth


    An example of wrinkle mats at the Dresser Formation. Credit: Wikicommons An example of wrinkle mats at the Dresser Formation. Credit: Wikicommons

    Scientists studying geological structures in Australia have found evidence of microbial life in 3.48 billion-year-old rocks. Their discovery could represent the oldest biosignatures yet identified on Earth.

    Nora Noffke of Old Dominion University first spotted what looked like a microbially-induced sedimentary structure (or MISS) while visiting Australia in 2008. The MISS structures were found in Western Australia’s Dresser Formation, which contains some of the oldest known rocks on Earth’s surface. The Dresser Formation is an active research site for scientists studying the ancient environment of Earth ...

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  1. The Evolution of Multicellularity: An Update


    The transition to multicellularity was one of a few major events in life’s history that created new opportunities for more complex biological systems to evolve. As this transition fundamentally changes what constitutes an individual, dissecting the steps in this transition remains a major challenge within evolutionary biology.

    Compared with other major transitions in evolution that occurred just once (for example, the origin of eukaryotes), multicellularity has evolved repeatedly. Most origins of multicellularity are ancient and transitional forms have been lost to extinction, so little is known about the potential for multicellularity to evolve from unicellular lineages, or the route ...

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