NAI

  1. Habitable Evaporated Cores


    Strong irradiation from the host star can cause planets known as mini-Neptunes in the habitable zone to shed their gaseous envelopes and become potentially habitable worlds.Credit: Rodrigo Luger / NAS Strong irradiation from the host star can cause planets known as mini-Neptunes in the habitable zone to shed their gaseous envelopes and become potentially habitable worlds.Credit: Rodrigo Luger / NASA images

    A new study supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) indicates that some terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of low mass stars could be the evaporated cores of small Neptune-like planets.

    University of Washington (UW) graduate student Rodrigo Luger, professors Rory Barnes and Victoria Meadows, and collaborators published results from an interdisciplinary model that show photoevaporation can remove hydrogen and helium from small, gaseous exoplanets, transforming them into ...

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  1. Water, Ice and the Origin of Life in the Universe


    The third Nordic-Hawaii Summer School will be held July 1-14, 2015, in Iceland. Credit: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC The third Nordic-Hawaii Summer School will be held July 1-14, 2015, in Iceland. Credit: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

    Applications for the third Nordic-Hawaii astrobiology Summer School are due March 15 at 23:59:00 UTC. The course will take place in Iceland from July 1 to 14, 2015.

    Participants will receive a high-level introduction into water’s role in the evolution of life in the cosmos, starting from the formation of water molecules in space and ending with the evolution of the first organisms.

    The program comprises:
    - Lectures by internationally leading scientists covering a broad range ...

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  1. Ancient Organisms That Have Not Evolved


    Deep-sea microorganisms are unchanged over more than 2 billion years. Credit: UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life Deep-sea microorganisms are unchanged over more than 2 billion years. Credit: UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life

    Scientists have discovered 1.8 billion-year-old fossil microorganisms in fossilized deep-sea mud from Western Australia. It appears that the sulfur-cycling microbial community is almost identical to microbial fossils from 2.3 billion-years-ago, and to modern communities found off the coast of South America.

    The stability of these communities could be evidence of a long-term lack of evolution, which reflects the lack of change in their environment. This would be an example of a theory known as evolution ...

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  1. FameLab USA Online Competition


    FameLab Regional Heat in San Francisco, December 2014

    Passionate about science? Love to communicate…or want to learn how? Missed the in-person regional heats? THIS is your chance. Join us for the FameLab USA Season 3 Online Competition!

    Unlike our in-person events, in this heat you will record yourself giving a 3-minute, powerpoint-free presentation, create a YouTube video of it, and submit that to us no later than March 16th. Then join us for the live, online judging event on March 18th to receive feedback from the judges. We are also planning a live, online science communications workshop, still TBA.

    More info, and plenty of how-to’s, tips ...

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  1. Guiding Our Search for Life on Other Earths


    Lisa Kaltenegger, Cornell University Lisa Kaltenegger, Cornell University

    A telescope will soon allow astronomers to probe the atmosphere of Earthlike exoplanets for signs of life. To prepare, Lisa Kaltenegger and her team at Cornell’s Institute for Pale Blue Dots are modeling the atmospheric fingerprints for hundreds of potential alien worlds. They are building a database of atmospheric fingerprints that will then be used as “ID cards” to guide the study of exoplanet atmospheres with the James Webb Space Telescope and other future large telescopes.

    Kaltenegger described her approach in a talk for the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Director Seminar Series last December.

    Source ...

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  1. NAI Director’s Seminar Series: Bill Bottke


    Bill Bottke of the Department of Space Studies at the Southwest Research Institute. Credit: SwRI Bill Bottke of the Department of Space Studies at the Southwest Research Institute. Credit: SwRI

    Bill Bottke of Southwest Research Institute will be presenting the next NAI Director’s Seminar on February 23, 2015, at 1pm Pacific Standard Time. A link to the web broadcast will be available here at 12:45pm PST on Feb 23.

    Bottke’s talk, “Early Solar System Bombardment and Earth’s Habitability,” will discuss insights about the bombardment history of the early Earth based on a new bombardment model for the inner Solar System that stretches from Mercury to the asteroid belt.

    For more information ...

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  1. Online Course: Natural Catastrophes and Extinction Events


    Online course, May 15 to June 30, 2015. Credit: Ilustre Colegio Oficial de GEÓLOGOS Online course, May 15 to June 30, 2015. Credit: Ilustre Colegio Oficial de GEÓLOGOS

    A new online astrobiology course in Spanish, “Catástrofes Naturales y Eventos de Extinción” (Natural Catastrophes and Extinction Events), will be taking place this year from May 15 to June 30. The course consists of three Modules with ten thematic units. Ten instructors will cover a wide range topics relevant to catastrophes and extinction events on Earth.

    For more information, click: here.

    A promotional video for the course can be viewed here.

    The new course follows last year’s successful online course, “Planetology and Astrobiology,” which was ...

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  1. Radio Signals From Jupiter and the Search for Life


    True color and feature-highlighted photos of Europa. The bright feature towards the lower right of the disk is the 45 km diameter crater Pwyll. Credit: NASA True color and feature-highlighted photos of Europa. The bright feature towards the lower right of the disk is the 45 km diameter crater Pwyll. Credit: NASA

    Powerful radio signals that Jupiter generates could be used to help researchers scan its giant moons for oceans that could be home to extraterrestrial life, according to a recent study submitted to the journal Icarus.

    The research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with NASA and funded through the Internal Research and Technology Development program.



    Europa is being put under the spotlight this week at ...

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  1. Life in Low-Temperature Fluids Beneath the Ocean Crust


    Phylogenetic relationships of dsrB sequences from borehole 1025C and U1301A fluids. Robador et al., 2014 Phylogenetic relationships of dsrB sequences from borehole 1025C and U1301A fluids. Robador et al., 2014

    A new study supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the Astrobiology program is shedding light on microbial communities that live in low-temperature fluids just beneath the ocean crust. The largest aquifer system on Earth exists beneath the crust at the bottom of our planet’s oceans, yet life in this remote environment has remained relatively unexplored for decades. By drilling into the ocean floor, scientists retrieved low-temperature (<100°C) fluids from the environment. In the samples they found evidence of sulfate reducing microbes over a range of temperatures.

    The results suggest that sulfate reducing microbes could be responsible for the removal of organic matter in ...

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  1. Deep Sea Microbes Unchanged for 2.3 Billion Years


    In the muddy sediments beneath the deep sea, NAI-funded astrobiologists have found ancient communities of microbes that have remained virtually unchanged for 2.3 billion years.

    Researchers say these microscopic organisms are an example of “extreme evolutionary stasis” and represent the greatest lack of evolution ever seen.

    They may also, paradoxically, prove that Darwin’s theory of evolution is true.

    “If evolution is a product of changes in the physical and biological environment, and there are no changes in the physical and biological environment, then there will be no evolution,” said William Schopf, a paleobiologist at UCLA.

    He calls it ...

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  1. NASA Seeks New NASA Astrobiology Institute Director


    NASA seeks a new Director for the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). The ideal candidate will be an internationally recognized scientist with proven experience in leading or managing large interdisciplinary research programs or projects, possessed with a vision for leading the Institute into the future. Applicants for this position should have a broad scientific perspective on astrobiology, experience in conducting interdisciplinary scientific research, and demonstrated skills needed to harness the strengths of disparate research communities towards a greater goal. S/he should understand how to grow a research endeavor and respond to changing budget climates while focusing on maximizing the scientific ...

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  1. 'Habitable Worlds’ Course Featured in Scientific American


    Students in the Habitable Worlds course learn what goes into making a planet. Credit: Anbar/Horodyskyj Students in the Habitable Worlds course learn what goes into making a planet. Credit: Anbar/Horodyskyj

    NAI-funded astrobiologists and educators at Arizona State University have made great strides in online education. Using themes in astrobiology, their Habitable Worlds course brings critical thinking skills to non-science majors…and the world is taking notice.

    Astrobiologist Aims to Make Science Education More Interactive

    I remember battling sleepiness as I slouched in a large lecture hall, squinting to make out the writing on the blackboard during my freshman introductory physics course in college. My difficulty staying alert in class was not the fault of ...

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  1. Rare Mineral in Wisconsin Meteorite Crater


    With support from the NASA Astrobiology Program, Cavosie brought students from the University of Puerto Rico to study outcrops at the Rock Elm meteorite impact structure. Reidite was found in the samp With support from the NASA Astrobiology Program, Cavosie brought students from the University of Puerto Rico to study outcrops at the Rock Elm meteorite impact structure. Reidite was found in the samples they collected. Credit: Aaron Cavosie

    Researchers have identified a rare mineral in a Wisconsin meteorite crater. The mineral reidite was found in the Rock Elm impact structure, making this only the fourth site on Earth where it has been identified.

    Reidite is a high-pressure mineral with well-constrained formation conditions, and was first identified in the laboratory in the 1960s. The only other sites where it has been spotted ...

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  1. A Tribute to Barry Blumberg


    A NASA portrait of Dr. Baruch Blumberg in 1999. Image credit: NASA/Tom Trower A NASA portrait of Dr. Baruch Blumberg in 1999. Image credit: NASA/Tom Trower

    Baruch S. “Barry” Blumberg, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was the founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). When Blumberg passed away suddenly of a heart attack at age 85 on April 5, 2011, it was a huge loss for the astrobiology community.

    This month, the journal Astrobiology features a tribute to Barry Blumberg written by current NAI Director, Carl Piltcher. The article is freely available on the journal’s website, and provides a background of Blumberg’s remarkable life ...

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  1. 2nd Announcement for the Workshop on the Potential for Finding Life in a Europa Plume


    Current Europa missions under study by NASA are focused on answering the question “Is Europa habitable?” However, the potential presence of water plumes on the satellite could present an opportunity to pursue the question “Is there life on Europa?” Answering this question is far more challenging because measurements currently possible may provide only ambiguous results from a mission that either orbits or flies by Europa at relatively high velocity. To that end, NASA’s Planetary Science Division is convening a workshop to consider strategies to investigate Europa’s putative plumes for evidence of life. Invitees will be asked to provide ...

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