Tilted orbits might make some planets wobble like a top that's almost done spinning, an effect that could maintain liquid water on the surface. Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Pivoting planets that lean one way and then change orientation within a short geological time period might be surprisingly habitable, according to new modeling by NASA and university scientists affiliated with the NASA Astrobiology Institute.
The climate effects generated on these wobbling worlds could prevent them from turning into glacier-covered ice lockers, even if those planets are somewhat far from their stars. And with some water remaining ...
The artist's concept depicts Kepler-186f , the first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone. Image Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech
Using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the “habitable zone” — the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that planets the size of Earth exist in the habitable zone of stars other than our sun.
While planets have previously been found in the habitable zone, they are ...April 17, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
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.April 15, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Michael Russell and Laurie Barge of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are pictured in their Icy Worlds laboratory, where they mimic the conditions of Earth billions of years ago, attempting to answer the question of how life first arose.
Life took root more than four billion years ago on our nascent Earth, a wetter and harsher place than now, bathed in sizzling ultraviolet rays. What started out as simple cells ultimately transformed into slime molds, frogs, elephants, humans and the rest of our planet’s living kingdoms. How did it all begin?
A new study from researchers at ...April 15, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Technical drawing of the MARTE (left). MARTE simulation chamber (right). Credits: Rev. Sci. Instrum. 85, 035111 (2014) (left image) and Martín-Gago/ICMM (right image)
Researchers at the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) in Madrid, Spain, have developed a Mars simulator that replicates almost all of the environmental variables on the red planet that pose a challenge for exploration equipment.
MARTE is a modular simulation chamber, and its flexible design allows scientists to re-configure the chamber to accommodate equipment of different sizes and shapes. The environment inside MARTE is also tuneable, allowing researchers to adjust factors like pressure, temperature and atmospheric composition ...
MIT professor of geophysics Daniel Rothman stands next to part of the Xiakou formation in China. His right hand rests on the layer that marks the time of the end-Permian mass extinction event.
Evidence left at the crime scene is abundant and global: Fossil remains show that sometime around 252 million years ago, about 90 percent of all species on Earth were suddenly wiped out — by far the largest of this planet’s five known mass extinctions. But pinpointing the culprit has been difficult, and controversial.
Now, a team of NAI-funded researchers at MIT may have found enough evidence to ...
NAI-funded astrobiologists at the University of Washington have developed a new method of gauging the atmospheric pressure of exoplanets, or worlds beyond the solar system, by looking for a certain type of molecule.
And if there is life out in space, scientists may one day use this same technique to detect its biosignature — the telltale chemical signs of its presence — in the atmosphere of an alien world.
Understanding atmospheric pressure is key to knowing if conditions at the surface of a terrestrial, or rocky, exoplanet might allow liquid water, thus giving life a chance.
The method, devised by Amit Misra ...
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 ...
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]March 31, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
This artist's concept illustrates the preferred model for explaining ALMA observations of Beta Pictoris. At the outer fringes of the system, the gravitational influence of a hypothetical giant planet (bottom left) captures comets into a dense, massive swarm (right) where frequent collisions occur. Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/F. Reddy
An international team of astronomers led by NAI-funded astrobiologists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center exploring the disk of gas and dust around a nearby star have uncovered a compact cloud of poisonous gas formed by ongoing rapid-fire collisions among a swarm of icy, comet-like ...
Lenticulae terrain on the surface of Europa. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Colorado
Researchers at the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) in Spain have used laboratory experiments to show that water, salts and gases dissolved in Europa’s ocean could rise to the surface to create geological features. The study might help explain how reddish materials at the surface are formed.
Images of Europa from missions like Galileo and Voyager revealed red-tinged materials associated with fractures in the moon’s icy surface. Astrobiologists have long wondered if these reddish marks are evidence that materials can be transported between ...March 24, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...March 21, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
This artist’s impression shows the planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B, a member of the triple star system that is the closest to Earth. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada
Earth is the only known example of an inhabited planet in the Universe, so the search for alien life has focused on Earth-like worlds. But what if there are alien worlds that are even more habitable than Earth-like planets?
A recent paper in the journal Astrobiology examines the potential for so-called “superhabitable” worlds. One such planet might even exist around the stellar system closest to Earth: Alpha Centauri B.
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 ...March 16, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
A simulated hydrothermal chimney wall , made of iron sulfide precipitates, formed in a fuel cell apparatus (JPL). Electron microscopy shows porosity – where ions flow across the membrane – and crystal formation, which act as electrodes in this “geochemical fuel cell”. Credit: Barge et al. 2014
Astrobiologists supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) have demonstrated a new way to study the origin of life: fuel cells.
On Earth, hydrothermal vents on the seafloor act as “geochemical fuel cells.” Living cells also generate energy through processes that are similar to fuel cells. To this end, the team used a lab-grown hydrothermal chimney ...March 14, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
- April 24 - Abstract Deadline: 8th International Conference on Mars
- April 30 - Uwingu PhD Student Travel Grants
- May 13 - University of Washington Seminar: Remote Sensing of Extrasolar Planets by Michael Line, University of California, Santa Cruz
- May 20 - University of Washington Seminar: Microbial Habitability of Icy Worlds by John Priscu, Montana State University
- NAI CAN7