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  1. Upstairs Downstairs: Consequences of Internal Planet Evolution for the Habitability and Detectability of Life on Extrasolar Planets


    Image Source: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech Image Source: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

    A Workshop Without Walls Presented by the NAI, NExSS, and NSF

    Where: Arizona State University & Virtual Locations
    Date: February 17th – 19th, 2016
    Time: 9:00AM – 3:00PM MST
    Agenda: http://nai.nasa.gov/calendar/www-upstairs-downstairs/#agenda

    The chemistry and physics of planetary interiors shapes conditions at their surfaces in ways that profoundly affect habitability and our ability to detect life. The nature and extent of these interactions are not well understood even on Earth. For example, we debate the ways in which internal processes affected the emergence of an O2-rich surface environment on Earth ...

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  1. How Friendly Is Enceladus’ Ocean to Life?


    Plumes erupting off the surface of Enceladus, an icy moon. Credit: NASA/JPL/SSI Plumes erupting off the surface of Enceladus, an icy moon. Credit: NASA/JPL/SSI

    How acidic is the ocean on Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus? It’s a fundamental question to understanding if this geyser-spouting moon could support life.

    Enceladus is part of a family of icy worlds, including Europa (at Jupiter) and Titan (also at Saturn), populating our outer solar system. These bodies are some of the most promising places for life because they receive tidal energy from the gas giants they orbit and some contain liquid water.

    The Cassini spacecraft has been taking regular measurements of Enceladus for ...

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  1. In Memory of Mike Jura



    Video courtesy of the UCLA Institute for Planets and Exoplanets

    Michael Jura, esteemed professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at the University of California, Los Angeles, passed away in January 2016. He is remembered for his numerous and varied contributions to astrophysics. Jura was a member of the emeritus NAI Team at UCLA.

    In his most recent work, Jura and his team looked at the atmospheres of white dwarf stars to study accretions from extrasolar minor planets, combining observations obtained at several different wavelengths with theoretical models. The research allowed the team to characterize the chemical composition and tectonic ...

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  1. From Chemical Gardens to Life and Art


    Image source: <a href="http://robertina.net/">robertina.net</a> Image source: robertina.net

    Chemical garden systems, generated by the chimney-shaped structures of ocean hydrothermal vents, have been of astrobiological interest to scientists in the NAI team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for some time. The possible link between these vents to the creation of energy and the beginnings of life on early Earth, first presented by Mike Russell in 1989, was recently reflected upon in an essay by Tim Requarth, published in Aeon.

    In December 2015, the potential of these vents also became the subject of an art installation at the Aksioma Project Space in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Based on ...

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  1. Baruch S. Blumberg Honored for His Lifetime Work in Science and Medicine


    A program hosted by the American Philosophical Society honored Barry S. Blumberg's scientific research approach and presented the handwritten journals that detailed his discovery of the Australian ant A program hosted by the American Philosophical Society honored Barry S. Blumberg's scientific research approach and presented the handwritten journals that detailed his discovery of the Australian antigen, a biomarker for hepatitis B. Image source: APS.

    Source: [American Philosophical Society]

    On December 10, 2015, the family of the late Baruch (Barry) S. Blumberg officially bequeathed his handwritten journals to the American Philosophical Society. Dr. Blumberg, a former President of the Society and discoverer of the Australia antigen, a biomarker for hepatitis B, received the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the hepatitis B virus ...

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  1. Upcoming Astrobiology Application Deadlines


    Calling all scientists! Don’t miss these opportunities to kick-start your career or fund research both in the lab and out in the field. The deadlines are approaching soon.


    The Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology

    Deadline: February 16, 2016

    The American Philosophical Society (APS) and the NASA Astrobiology Institute partnered in 2006 to promote the continued exploration of the world around us through a program of research grants in support of astrobiological field studies undertaken by graduate students, postdocs, and early-career scientists and scholars who are affiliated with U.S. institutions. Previous award recipients ...

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  1. NAI 2015 Director’s Discretionary Fund (DDF) Selections


    The NASA Astrobiology Institute is pleased to announce nine selections for the Director’s Discretionary Fund for 2015. The proposals were chosen based on responsiveness to the scientific and programmatic priorities for the year: integrating the research of and realizing synergies among the current NAI teams, support for early career investigators, and collaboration with our international partners.

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  1. Nitrogen May Be a Sign of Habitability


    About 78% of Earth’s atmosphere is made up of nitrogen. Credit: NASA About 78% of Earth’s atmosphere is made up of nitrogen. Credit: NASA

    We might commonly think of Earth as having an oxygen-dominated atmosphere, but in reality the molecule makes up only a fifth of our air. Most of what surrounds us is nitrogen, at 78 percent. Astrobiologists are beginning to see nitrogen — and not just oxygen— as a key indicator of a planet’s habitability. Nitrogen is essential for life on Earth and could signal an atmosphere thick enough to stabilize liquid water on a planet’s surface, fundamental to creating habitable conditions.

    Nitrogen, in fact, was even more ...

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  1. Life’s Rocky Start


    Life’s Rocky Start airs tonight, 9PM ET/PT on PBS. It follows astrobiologist Robert Hazen as he looks for life in a mineralogical context, and features NAI University of Wisconsin team member John Valley and his research on Archean/Hadean zircons.

    The program will be available for streaming. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/life-rocky-start.html

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  1. The 4th International ELSI Symposium Broadcasting Live


    The 4th International Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) Symposium: Early Earth, Venus & Mars, taking place January 12-15 at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, is broadcasting live via SAGANLive!

    For a full schedule of talks, visit: http://www.elsi.jp/en/research/activities/symposium/2016/01/sympo-04.html (times are JST).

    About the symposium:
    In the Solar System, Earth has alone managed to generate and maintain a large active biosphere whose existence greatly altered the subsequent chemical and physical evolution of the planet. Whether its nearest neighbours, Venus and Mars, were temporarily able to do this as well, or were never in ...

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  1. Hunting Alternative Earths


    Timothy Lyons, PI of the NAI Alternative Earths team, presents the study of Earth’s history happening at the University of California, Riverside and shares how the team’s research connects to the search for life on exoplanets.

    The video was produced by UC Riverside, providing a glimpse of the lab and the people conducting the research.

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  1. Recap of the 2015 Western Australia Astrobiology Grand Tour


    Overhead shot of Shark Bay. Source: ACA/UNSW. Overhead shot of Shark Bay. Source: ACA/UNSW.

    NASA Astrobiology Institute Field Trip Scholarship recipients Giada Arney, Marisol Juarez Rivera and Shaunna Morrison took part in the Western Australia Astrobiology Grand Tour, an eleven-day field trip where participants discovered the unique geography, molluscs and microbial life of Shark Bay, trekked through the iron-rich landscape of the Pilbara—analogous to Martian terrain—to study the banded iron formation of Mount Tom Price and ancient gorges of Karijini National Park, investigated fossils, camped under the stars, and more. The tour was lead by Malcolm Walter, professor of astrobiology at the University of ...

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  1. Seth Shostak Wins Prize for Science Popularization


    Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute. Image source: FameLab Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute. Image source: FameLab

    [Source: SETI Institute]

    Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, was announced the recipient of the Wonderfest 2015 Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization, an award recognizing researchers who “have contributed mightily to the public understanding and appreciation of science.” Shostak has authored numerous articles and books and has been seen and heard on several television and radio programs. He is a well-known voice of the podcast, Big Picture Science, a weekly hour-long show that explores a diverse range of science topics that tie in to our understanding of life ...

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  1. NAI Scientists Honored With Math and Chemistry Awards


    Daniel Rothman of MIT was honored with the AMS 2016 Levi L. Conant Prize. Jason Dworkin of GSFC was honored with 2015 Maryland Chemist Award. Image Credits: Rothman Group at MIT / NASA/GSFC. Daniel Rothman of MIT was honored with the AMS 2016 Levi L. Conant Prize. Jason Dworkin of GSFC was honored with 2015 Maryland Chemist Award. Image Credits: Rothman Group at MIT / NASA/GSFC.

    [Source: American Mathematical Society]

    Daniel Rothman, a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute MIT team, received the 2016 Levi L. Conant Prize of the American Mathematical Society for his article “Earth’s Carbon Cycle: A Mathematical Perspective” which appeared in the Bulletin of the AMS.

    His paper explores the underlying mathematical structure of the carbon cycle and encourages mathematicians to see their role along with scientists in addressing ...

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  1. Astrobiology Graphic History Issue #5 at AGU


    Issue #5 of the ongoing Astrobiology graphic history series dives into the study of life on Mars through analog locations found on Earth, with special appearances made by real life astrobiologists. The issue is available for download as both a high-resolution PDF and a PDF for mobile devices.

    If you are attending AGU, don’t miss your chance to get physical copies of Astrobiology, the Search for Life in the Universe signed by series writer and illustrator Aaron Gronstal on December 14th 6-8pm and December 15th 11:30-1pm.

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