2012 Annual Science Report
NASA Ames Research Center Reporting | SEP 2011 – AUG 2012
The Ames Team investigates the physical, chemical and biological processes that combined to create early habitable environments. We trace the cosmic evolution of organic molecules from the interstellar medium, through protoplanetary disks and planetesimals, and ultimately to potentially habitable planets. We characterize the diversity of planetary systems that might emerge from protoplanetary disks. We identify diverse scenarios for the origins and early evolution of catalytic functionality and metabolic reaction networks. We develop and test a methodology for assessing quantitatively the habitability of early planetary environments – particularly Mars – via capabilities that could be deployed in situ. Our ongoing active involvement in multiple NASA missions provides context, incentives and collaborative opportunities for our research and education and public outreach programs. Please visit http://www.amesteam.arc.nasa.gov/.
Cosmic distribution of chemical complexity. This project explores the connections between chemistry in space and the origins of life ... Continue reading.
David Des Marais
NAI, ASTEP, ASTID, Exobiology
TEAM Active Dates:2/2009 - 1/2015 CAN 5
Members:44 (See All)
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Mineralogical Traces of Early Habitable Environments
The goal of our work is to understand how habitability (potential to support life) varies across a range of physical and chemical parameters, in order to support a long-term goal of characterizing habitability of environments on Mars. The project consists of two main components: 1. We are examining the interplay between physicochemical environments and associated microbial communities in a subsurface environment dominated by serpentinization (a reaction that involves water and crustal rocks, and which occurred on early Mars as indicated by observations of surface mineralogy). 2. We are working to understand how mineral assemblages can serve as a lasting record of prior environmental conditions, and therefore as indicators of prior habitability. This component directly supports the interpretation of mineralogy data obtained by the CheMin instrument on the Mars Science Laboratory.ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 5.3
Origins of Functional Proteins and the Early Evolution of Metabolism
The main goal of this project is to identify critical requirements for the emergence of biological complexity in early habitable environments by examining key steps in the origins and early evolution of functional proteins and metabolic reaction networks. In particular, we investigate whether protein functionality can arise from an inventory of polypeptides that might have naturally existed in habitable environments. We attempt the first demonstration of multiple origins of a single enzymatic function. We investigate experimentally how primordial proteins could evolve through the diversification of their structure and function and thus demonstrate key steps in the earliest evolution of protein functions.ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.2 3.4
Disks and the Origins of Planetary Systems
This task is concerned with the formation and evolution of complex habitable environments. The planet formation process begins with fragmentation of large molecular clouds into flattened disks. This disk is, in many ways, an astrochemical “primeval soup” in which cosmically abundant elements are assembled into increasingly complex organic compounds and mixed in the dust and gas within the disk. Gravitational attraction among the myriad small bodies leads to planet formation. If the newly formed planet is a distance from its star that is suitable to support liquid water at the surface, it is in the so-called “habitable zone” (HZ). The formation process and identification of such life-supporting bodies is the goal of this project.ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 2.1 4.3
Cosmic Distribution of Chemical Complexity
The three tasks of this project explore the connections between chemistry in space and the origin of life. We start by tracking the formation and evolution of chemical complexity in space, from simple carbon-rich molecules such as formaldehyde and acetylene to complex species including amino acids, nucleic acids and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The work focuses on carbon-rich species that are interesting from a biogenic perspective and on understanding their possible roles in the origin of life on habitable worlds. We do this by measuring the spectra and chemistry of analog materials in the laboratory, by remote sensing with small spacecraft, and by analysis of extraterrestrial samples returned by spacecraft or that fall to Earth as meteorites. We then use these results to interpret astronomical observations made with ground-based and orbiting telescopes.ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 3.4 4.3 7.1 7.2
Education & Public Outreach
- Astrobiology Offered as Graduate Course
- Astrobiology Student Intern Program at Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Educator - Scientist Professional Development
- Scientists' Involvement in EPO: Making the Case
- Summer Intern Program Focuses on Curriculum Development and Research
- Trailside Signs Target Astrobiology in National Park
Blake, D., Vaniman, D., Achilles, C., Anderson, R., Bish, D., Bristow, T., … Yen, A. (2012). Characterization and Calibration of the CheMin Mineralogical Instrument on Mars Science Laboratory. Space Sci Rev, 170(1-4), 341–399. doi:10.1007/s11214-012-9905-1
Boersma, C., Rubin, R. H., & Allamandola, L. J. (2012). SPATIAL ANALYSIS OF THE POLYCYCLIC AROMATIC HYDROCARBON FEATURES SOUTHEAST OF THE ORION BAR. The Astrophysical Journal, 753(2), 168. doi:10.1088/0004-637x/753/2/168
Burow, L. C., Woebken, D., Bebout, B. M., McMurdie, P. J., Singer, S. W., Pett-Ridge, J., … Hoehler, T. M. (2011). Hydrogen production in photosynthetic microbial mats in the Elkhorn Slough estuary, Monterey Bay. ISME J, 6(4), 863–874. doi:10.1038/ismej.2011.142
Chao, F-A., Morelli, A., Iii, J. C. H., Churchfield, L., Hagmann, L. N., Shi, L., … Seelig, B. (2012). Structure and dynamics of a primordial catalytic fold generated by in vitro evolution. Nat Chem Biol, 9(2), 81–83. doi:10.1038/nchembio.1138
Ciesla, F. J., & Sandford, S. A. (2012). Organic Synthesis via Irradiation and Warming of Ice Grains in the Solar Nebula. Science, 336(6080), 452–454. doi:10.1126/science.1217291
Cody, G. D., Heying, E., Alexander, C. M. O., Nittler, L. R., Kilcoyne, A. L. D., Sandford, S. A., & Stroud, R. M. (2011). Establishing a molecular relationship between chondritic and cometary organic solids. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(48), 19171–19176. doi:10.1073/pnas.1015913108
Dragomir, D., Kane, S. R., Henry, G. W., Ciardi, D. R., Fischer, D. A., Howard, A. W., … Wright, J. T. (2012). THE HD 192263 SYSTEM: PLANETARY ORBITAL PERIOD AND STELLAR VARIABILITY DISENTANGLED. The Astrophysical Journal, 754(1), 37. doi:10.1088/0004-637x/754/1/37
Geers, V. C., Gorti, U., Meyer, M. R., Mamajek, E., Benz, A. O., & Hollenbach, D. (2012). REMNANT GAS IN EVOLVED CIRCUMSTELLAR DISKS: HERSCHEL PACS OBSERVATIONS of 10-100 Myr OLD DISK SYSTEMS. The Astrophysical Journal, 755(1), 8. doi:10.1088/0004-637x/755/1/8
Golynskiy, M. V., Haugner, J. C., Morelli, A., Morrone, D., & Seelig, B. (2013). In Vitro Evolution of Enzymes. Enzyme Engineering, None, 73–92. doi:10.1007/978-1-62703-293-3_6
Knutson, H. A., Lewis, N., Fortney, J. J., Burrows, A., Showman, A. P., Cowan, N. B., … Laughlin, G. (2012). 3.6 AND 4.5 μm PHASE CURVES AND EVIDENCE FOR NON-EQUILIBRIUM CHEMISTRY IN THE ATMOSPHERE OF EXTRASOLAR PLANET HD 189733b. The Astrophysical Journal, 754(1), 22. doi:10.1088/0004-637x/754/1/22
Mattioda, A., Cook, A., Ehrenfreund, P., Quinn, R., Ricco, A. J., Squires, D., … Young, A. (2012). The O/OREOS Mission: First Science Data from the Space Environment Viability of Organics (SEVO) Payload. Astrobiology, 12(9), 841–853. doi:10.1089/ast.2012.0861
Nakamura, T., Noguchi, T., Tanaka, M., Zolensky, M. E., Kimura, M., Tsuchiyama, A., … Kawaguchi, J. (2011). Itokawa Dust Particles: A Direct Link Between S-Type Asteroids and Ordinary Chondrites. Science, 333(6046), 1113–1116. doi:10.1126/science.1207758
Naraoka, H., Mita, H., Hamase, K., Mita, M., Yabuta, H., Saito, K., … Kawaguchi, J. (2012). Preliminary organic compound analysis of microparticles returned from Asteroid 25143 Itokawa by the Hayabusa mission. GEOCHEMICAL JOURNAL, 46(1), 61–72. doi:10.2343/geochemj.1.0134
Nuevo, M., Milam, S. N., & Sandford, S. A. (2012). Nucleobases and Prebiotic Molecules in Organic Residues Produced from the Ultraviolet Photo-Irradiation of Pyrimidine in NH 3 and H 2 O+NH 3 Ices. Astrobiology, 12(4), 295–314. doi:10.1089/ast.2011.0726
Nuevo, M., Milam, S. N., Sandford, S. A., De Gregorio, B. T., Cody, G. D., & Kilcoyne, A. L. D. (2011). XANES analysis of organic residues produced from the UV irradiation of astrophysical ice analogs. Advances in Space Research, 48(6), 1126–1135. doi:10.1016/j.asr.2011.05.020
Pascucci, I., Gorti, U., & Hollenbach, D. (2012). FREE-FREE EMISSION AND RADIO RECOMBINATION LINES FROM PHOTOEVAPORATING DISKS. The Astrophysical Journal, 751(2), L42. doi:10.1088/2041-8205/751/2/l42
Peeters, E., Tielens, A. G. G. M., Allamandola, L. J., & Wolfire, M. G. (2012). THE 15–20 μm EMISSION IN THE REFLECTION NEBULA NGC 2023. The Astrophysical Journal, 747(1), 44. doi:10.1088/0004-637x/747/1/44
Pohorille, A. (2012). Processes that Drove the Transition from Chemistry to Biology: Concepts and Evidence. Orig Life Evol Biosph, 42(5), 429–432. doi:10.1007/s11084-012-9304-3
Pohorille, A., & Pratt, L. R. (2012). Is Water the Universal Solvent for Life?. Orig Life Evol Biosph, 42(5), 405–409. doi:10.1007/s11084-012-9301-6
Ricca, A., Bauschlicher, C. W., Boersma, C., Tielens, A. G. G. M., & Allamandola, L. J. (2012). THE INFRARED SPECTROSCOPY OF COMPACT POLYCYCLIC AROMATIC HYDROCARBONS CONTAINING UP TO 384 CARBONS. The Astrophysical Journal, 754(1), 75. doi:10.1088/0004-637x/754/1/75
Schlaufman, K. C., & Laughlin, G. (2011). KEPLER EXOPLANET CANDIDATE HOST STARS ARE PREFERENTIALLY METAL RICH. The Astrophysical Journal, 738(2), 177. doi:10.1088/0004-637x/738/2/177
Tsuchiyama, A., Uesugi, M., Matsushima, T., Michikami, T., Kadono, T., Nakamura, T., … Kawaguchi, J. (2011). Three-Dimensional Structure of Hayabusa Samples: Origin and Evolution of Itokawa Regolith. Science, 333(6046), 1125–1128. doi:10.1126/science.1207807
Wei, C., & Pohorille, A. (2013). Permeation of Aldopentoses and Nucleosides Through Fatty Acid and Phospholipid Membranes: Implications to the Origins of Life. Astrobiology, 13(2), 177–188. doi:10.1089/ast.2012.0901
Woebken, D., Burow, L. C., Prufert-Bebout, L., Bebout, B. M., Hoehler, T. M., Pett-Ridge, J., … Singer, S. W. (2012). Identification of a novel cyanobacterial group as active diazotrophs in a coastal microbial mat using NanoSIMS analysis. ISME J, 6(7), 1427–1439. doi:10.1038/ismej.2011.200
Wolfgang, A., & Laughlin, G. (2012). THE EFFECT OF POPULATION-WIDE MASS-TO-RADIUS RELATIONSHIPS ON THE INTERPRETATION OF KEPLER AND HARPS SUPER-EARTH OCCURRENCE RATES. The Astrophysical Journal, 750(2), 148. doi:10.1088/0004-637x/750/2/148
- Alperin, M.J. & Hoehler, T.M. (2012). Modeling microbial life under extreme energy limitation. Abstracts of the Second International Workshop on Microbial Life Under Extreme Energy Limitation.
- Alperin, M.J., Hoehler, T.M. & Lloyd, K.G. (2012). On the reversibility of methane production from CO2 and H2: Revisited. Abstracts of the Second International Workshop on Microbial Life Under Extreme Energy Limitation.
- Bishop, J.L., Loizeau, D., McKeown, N.K., Saper, L., Darby Dyar, M., Des Marais, D., Parente, M. & Murchie, S.L. (2012). Early Martian habitability and phyllosilicates at Mawrth Vallis. Third Conference on Early Mars, #7014, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, TX.
- Brazelton, W., Nelson, B., Szponar, N., Morrill, P.O. & Schrenk, M.O. (2012). Metagenomic evidence for subsurface microbial activity fueled by serpentinization [talk] Astrobiology Science Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, (16-20 April 2012).
- Brazelton, W.J. & Schrenk, M.O. (2012). Metagenome-enabled investigations of carbon and hydrogen fluxes within the serpentinite-hosted subsurface biosphere. JGI User Meeting .
- Brazelton, W.J., Nelson, B. & Schrenk, M.O. (2011). Investigating the Potential for Subsurface Primary Production Fueled by Serpentinization. [invited talk] Abstract B44B-02, presented at 2011 Fall AGU Meeting, San Francisco, CA, 5-9 Dec.
- Brazelton, W.J., Twing, K.I. & Schrenk, M.O. (2012). Microbial Biogeography of serpentinization-hosted ecosystems [poster]. Gordon Research Conference on Marine Microbial Genomics, Lucca, Italy (June 2012).
- Cardace, D. & Meyer-Dombard, D.R. (2011). Bioenergetics of Continental Serpentinites. Abstract B51B-0400. Presented at 2011 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 5-9 Dec.
- Cardace, D., Carnevale, D., Hoehler, T., McCollom, T. & Schrenk, M. (2012). Active Serpentinization in the Coast Range Ophiolite: Intersections of Petrography, Geochemistry, and Bioenergetics. Abstract #4491. Presented at the Astrobiology Science Conference, Atlanta, GA, 16-20 April.
- Carnevale, D., Cardace, D., McCann, A. & Hoehler, T.M. (2011). Mineralogy and Geochemistry of Coast Range Ophiolite, CA Rock Cores Keys to Understanding Subsurface Serpentinite Habitability on Mars. Abstract B51B-0401. Presented at 2011 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 5-9 Dec.
- Chowdhury, S., Brazelton, W. & Schrenk, M. (2012). Metabolic Capabilities of Microbial Communities in the Serpentinite Subsurface Biosphere. [poster] Astrobiology Science Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, (16-20 April 2012).
- Cuylle, S.H., Tenenebaum, E.D., Bouwman, J., Linnartz, H. & Allamandola, L.J. (2012). Lyman-alpha Induced Charge Effects of PAHs Embedded in Ammonia and Ammonia: Water Ice. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
- Davis, S. (2012). Transport in the early Solar Nebula: Follow the Water, Astrobiology Science Conference, 16-20 April, Atlanta GA, Abstract 2012.
- Gorti, U. & D’Angelo, G. (2011). Self-consistent Models of Orbital Migration of Earths and Super-Earths, AGU Fall Meeting, Abstract 1690.
- Hoehler, T.M. & Pohorille, A. (2011). The importance of water for high fidelity information processing and for life. [Invited] EOS Trans. AGU, 92(53), Fall Meet. Suppl., P24B-02.
- Hoehler, T.M. (2011). Energetic constraints on subsurface life: A case study of methanogenesis in serpentinizing systems. [Invited] Abstracts of the 2011 International Society for Subsurface Microbiology Meeting.
- Hoehler, T.M., Alperin, M.J. & McCollom, T.M. (2012). Energy and habitability: A case study of methanogenesis in serpentinizing systems. [Invited] Abstracts of the 2012 Astrobiology Science Conference.
- Hoehler, T.M., McCollom, T., Schrenk, M.O., Kubo, M. & Cardace, D. (2011). One-carbon (bio?) geochemistry in subsurface waters of the serpentinizing Coast Range Ophiolite (Invited), Abstract B22A-04 presented at 2011 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 5-9 Dec., EOS Trans. AGU, 92(53).
- Jahnke, L., Parenteau, N. & Farmer, J. (2012). Microbial lipid and C isotopic biosignatures of a unique community at Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park. Poster presentation at American Society for Microbiology General Meeting, June 2012, San Francisco, CA.
- Jahnke, L.L., Parenteau, M.N. & Farmer, J. (2012). Microbial lipid and C-isotopic biosignatures of a unique community at Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Abstracts 112th General Meeting ASM, San Francisco CA.
- Kyle, J.E., Jahnke, L.L. & Stedman, K.M. (2012). Changes in virus infectivity and virus and host lipids under silicifying conditions: Implications for virus biosignatures, Astrobiology Science Conference Exploring Life: Past and Present, Near and Far, No. 2117, Atlanta, GA.
- Kyle, J.E., Jahnke, L.L. & Stedman, K.M. (2012). Preservation potential of lipid-containing viruses under silicifying conditions, 43rd Lunar Planetary Science Conference, LPI Contribution No. 1659, The Woodlands, Texas.
- Kyle, J.E., Stedman, K.M. & Jahnke, L.L. (2012). Lipid profile of a saline, alkaline lake (with a viral twist?), Astrobiology Science Conference, Exploring Life: Past and Present, Near and Far, No. 1475. Atlanta, GA.
- Laughlin, G. (2012). The Exoplanet Handbook. Physics Today.
- McCann, A.R., Cardace, D. & Carnevale, D. (2011). Technology-Enhanced Science: Using an Online Blog to Share a Collaborative Field Study for Research and Education. Abstract ED13A-0808. Presented at 2011 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 5-9 Dec.
- McCann, A.R., Cardace, D., Carnevale, D. & Ehlmann, B.L. (2011). Mineralogy of Surface Serpentinite Outcrops in the Coast Range Ophiolite: Implications for the Deep Biosphere and Astrobiology. Abstract B51B-0402. Presented at 2011 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 5-9 Dec.
- Mills, V., Farmer, J.D., Ruff, S., Núñez, J.I. & Jahnke, L.L. (2011). Systematic variations in sinter mineralogy, microtexture and diagenesis in modern siliceous hot springs: Clues for interpreting depositional conditions in ancient deposits. Abstracts Fall Meeting American Geophysical Union, San Francisco CA.
- Nelson, B., Chowdhury, S., Brazelton, W. & Schrenk, M. (2011). Metabolic and Physiological Characteristics of Novel Cultivars from Serpentinite Seep Fluids. [poster] Abstract B51K-0562 presented at 2011 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 5-9 Dec.
- Parenteau, N., Jahnke, L. & Bosak, T. (2012). Linking microbial ecosystem biosignatures to the geologic record of early Earth and Mars. Astrobiology Science Conference, April 2012, Atlanta, GA.
- Parenteau, N., Jahnke, L., Cady, S. & Pierson, B. (2011). Anoxygenic growth of cyanobacteria on Fe(II) and their associated biosignatures: Implications for biotic contributions to Precambrian Iron Formations. Oral presentation at AGU Fall Meeting, December 2011, San Francisco, CA.
- Parenteau, N., Jahnke, L., Cady, S. & Pierson, B. (2012). Anoxygenic growth of cyanobacteria on Fe(II) and their associated biosignatures: Implications for biotic contributions to Precambrian Iron Formations. Oral presentation at NASA Ames Biology Seminar Series, September 2012, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA.
- Pascucci, I., Laughlin, G., Gaudi, B.S., Kennedy, G., Luhman, K., Mohanty, S., Brikby, J., Ercolanao, B., Plavchan, P. & Skemer, A. (2012). Planet Formation Around M-dwarfs: From Young Disks to Planets, In: 16th Cambridge Workshop on Cool Stars, Stellar Systems, and the Sun. ASP Conference Series, Vol. 448, proceedings of a conference held August 28- September 2, 2010, at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. Edited by Christopher M. Johns-Krull, Matthew K. Browning, and Andrew A. West. San Francisco: Astronomical Society of the Pacific, p.469.
- Pohorille, A. (2012, In Press). A few comments on Dynamic Kinetic Stability. Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere.
- Rugheimer, S. & Som, S. (2012). Exoplanet and organics in Space. Presentation at the 2012 Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon), August 27 – 30 2012, Los Angeles, CA.
- Sandford, S.A. (2011). The Power of Sample Return Missions -Stardust and Hayabusa. In Proceedings of the IAU Symposium #280 – “The Molecular Universe”, eds. J. Cernicharo and R. Bachiller, invited paper to meeting held in Toledo, Spain, 30 May – 3 June 2011, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. Proceedings of the IAU Symposium, 280: 275-287.
- Schrenk, M.O., Brazelton, W.J. & Lang, S.Q. (2012). Serpentinization, Carbon, and Deep Life [poster]. Astrobiology Science Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, (16-20 April 2012).
- Schrenk, M.O., Nelson, B.Y. & Brazelton, W.J. (2011). The Serpentinite Subsurface Microbiome. [invited talk] Abstract B22A-05 presented at 2011 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 5-9 Dec.
- Som, S. (2012). A cell as a toaster. Presentation and poster and the 2012 Nordic-Hawaii Summer School, July 1 – 15, 2012, Reykjavik, Iceland.
- Som, S., Alperin, M. & Hoehler, T. (2012). Numerical quantification of habitability in serpentinizing systems. Abstract and poster presented at the 2012 Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon), April 16-20 2012, Atlanta, GA.
- Som, S., Alperin, M. & Hoehler, T. (2012). Numerical quantification of habitability in serpentinizing systems. Poster presented at the 2012 Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon), August 27-30 2012, Los Angeles, CA.
- Team, E.S. (2012). Europa Study 2012 Report: Europa Lander Mission. Europa.
- Twing, K.I., Brazelton, W., Quinn, E., Kloysuntia, A. & Schrenk, M. (2012). Linking Identity and Function in Serpentinite-Hosted Microbial Communities. [poster] Astrobiology Science Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, (16-20 April 2012).
- Twing, K.I., Brazelton, W.J. & Schrenk, M.O. (2012). Biogeography of functional genes in serpentinization-driven ecosystems [poster]. Gordon Research Conference on Marine Microbial Genomics, Lucca, Italy (June 2012).
- Wiktorowicz, S. & Laughlin, G. (2012). Direct Detection of Exoplanets with Polarimetry. American Astronomical Society Meeting, Abstract #219, #326.08.
- Wray, A.C., Bolser, D., Kubo, M. & Hoehler, T. (2012). Carbon Monoxide and its Role in Subsurface Anaerobic Microbial Metabolism, Poster presented at Astrobiology Science Conference 2012, Atlanta, Georgia, April 16-20.
- Zahnle, K.J. & Catling, D.C. (2012, In Revision). Waiting for O2. Geological Society of America Special Publication.
Arizona State University
Carnegie Institution of Washington
Georgia Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Montana State University
NASA Ames Research Center
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory - Icy Worlds
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory - Titan
Pennsylvania State University
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
University of Hawaii, Manoa
University of Wisconsin
VPL at University of Washington