Researchers are studying how environmental context can help determine whether oxygen (O2) detected in extrasolar planetary observations is more likely to have a biological source
Terry Isson and Noah Planavsky provide a new framework for global climate regulation to explain Earth's warmer past climate. Image source: NASA
Scientists with the NASA Astrobiology Institute team based at UC Riverside have published a new paper providing explanation for why Earth’s early climate was more stable and warmer than it is today.
Excerpted from the story by Jim Shelton at YaleNews:
When life first evolved more than 3.5 billion years ago, Earth’s surface environment looked very different. The sun was much weaker, but Earth remained warm enough to keep liquid water at the surface. The researchers said this suggests that much higher carbon dioxide levels would have been needed to keep early Earth warm enough. But how ...
Source: [Nature (via UC Riverside)]August 17, 2018 / Written by: YaleNews
The Oman Drilling Project is a multi-national investigation into the Samail Ophiolite, the world’s largest, best-exposed, and most-studied subaerial block of oceanic crust and upper mantle. Scientists are extracting and examining borehole samples from key locations within the ancient seabed to follow the journey of carbon from atmosphere to beneath the earth.
The Oman Drilling Project video, produced by the Deep Carbon Observatory, provides a view of the landscape, the science, and the exciting potential discoveries that will increase our understanding of microbial ecosystems within extreme environments and the origins of life in the universe. Scientists Peter Kelemen (a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute Rock-Powered Life team) and Alexis Templeton (PI of Rock-Powered Life) provide narration.
Source: [Deep Carbon Observatory]August 03, 2018 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Goddard Center for Astrobiology (GCA) – NASA Astrobiology Institute
Undergraduate Research Associates in Astrobiology: End-of Term Research Presentations
The GCA sponsors a summer program (URAA) in which talented undergraduate students conduct cutting-edge research under the direction of GCA scientist-mentors. The students present summaries of their research objectives and findings during an end-of-term session delivered both locally and over the internet to the NAI as a whole.
The Class of 2018 will present on Thursday, August 2nd at 1-2 PM EDT in Building 34, Room W130. You are invited to attend, either locally or remotely.
Source: [NAI Seminars and Workshop]August 01, 2018 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
The view of Mars shown here was assembled from MOC daily global images obtained on May 12, 2003. Credits: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
A new paper published in Science this week suggests that liquid water may be sitting under a layer of ice at Mars’ south pole.
The finding is based on data from the European Mars Express spacecraft, obtained by a radar instrument called MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding). The Italian Space Agency (ASI) led the development of the MARSIS radar. NASA provided half of the instrument, with management of the U.S. portion led by the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The paper, authored by the Italian MARSIS team, outlines how a “bright spot” was ...
Source: [NASA]July 26, 2018 / Written by: NASA
From Habitability to Life on Mars, a new book edited by SETI Institute scientists Nathalie A. Cabrol and Edmond A. Grin, with content by authors directly involved in past, current, and upcoming Mars missions, is now available!
From the publisher, Elsevier:
From Habitability to Life on Mars explores the current state of knowledge and questions on the past habitability of Mars and the role that rapid environmental changes may have played in the ability of prebiotic chemistry to transition to life. It investigates the role that such changes may have played in the preservation of biosignatures in the geological record ...July 23, 2018 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Image source: Gene Innovation Lab / USC
Life Underground, a game developed by the Game Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California, takes players on a journey into the depths and extremes of the Earth, and it’s available to download!
From Game Innovation Lab:
“The Life Underground game is an interactive outreach experience for 7th and 8th grade classrooms. The goal is for students to visualize microscopic life at a range of terrestrial and extraterrestrial subsurface conditions. Students take the role of a young scientist investigating extreme subsurface environments for microbial life. They will navigate through extreme conditions, including those of temperature, pressure, acidity, and energy limitations, and they will begin to recognize what characterizes life in this context.”
Free copies are available to students, educators, and reviewers. For more information and to download the game, visit the Game Innovation Lab website.July 19, 2018 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
The thin line of Earth's atmosphere and the setting sun are featured in this image photographed by the crew of the International Space Station while space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-129 mission was docked with the station. Source: NASA
Researchers have uncovered details about the versatile energy metabolism of the thermoacidophilic archaea, Acidianus strain DS80. This organism grows both autotrophically and heterotrophically with a range of electron acceptors. The new study examines the growth response of strain DS80 to varying electron acceptors (sulfur, ferric iron, or oxygen), and the amount of CO2 assimilated into biomass under each set of conditions. The study ties carbon sources used by DS80 to electron acceptor availability.
Microbial metabolism is essential in global biogeochemical cycles that affect the habitability of Earth. Studying the activities of microorganisms and their role in the environment is useful for understanding our planet, and provides insight into more general principles of habitability that could be applicable to other worlds.
The study, “Electron Acceptor Availability Alters Carbon and Energy Metabolism in a Thermoacidophile,” was published in the journal Environmental Microbiology. The work was supported by NASA Astrobiology through the Exobiology Program and NASA Astrobiology Institute.
Source: [Astrobiology at NASA]July 13, 2018 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Quartz analysis image. Source: Michael Ackerson / Carnegia Science
Granite is a record keeper of the history of continental movement, volcanic activity, and thermal properties of Earth’s upper crust, going back as far as 4.4 billion years ago.
Michael Ackerson and his team have analyzed granite rock samples found in Yosemite National Park, and their study reveals evidence of mineral crystallization occurring at a much lower temperature than previously thought possible—around 100-200 degrees cooler than currently assumed. This discovery has the potential to change the larger picture in our understanding of the geology of Earth’s past, including crust and magma formation, and the link between volcanoes, ores deposits, and granite.
The paper, “Low-temperature crystallization of granites and the implications for crustal magmatism,” is published in Nature.
A full press release is available through Carnegie Science.
Source: [Nature (via Carnegie Science)]July 11, 2018 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Left: SHERLOC will be mounted on the arm of the Mars 2020 rover. Image source: NASA. Right: Stromatolitic limestone as a Mars analog sample containing kerogen (dark regions) as a complex fossil biosignature, hosted by carbonate (light regions), which was successfully detected by UV Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy in this study. Image source: S. Shkolyar / J. Farmer.
The upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission will hunt for signs of past microbial life and indications of habitable conditions on Mars. A device mounted on the rover’s arm, called SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals), will aid in the detection of kerogens, fossilized organic materials in sedimentary rocks.
To inform NASA’s planning strategies for SHERLOC, Svetlana Shkolyar, a 2014 recipient of the NASA Astrobiology Early Career Collaboration Award, and her research team analyzed the capabilities of co-located time-gated Raman and fluorescent spectroscopy in detecting and distinguishing kerogen when scanning Mars analogue samples.
The team’s findings, published in Astrobiology reveal promising results and highlight the value of combining co-located Raman and fluorescence spectroscopies, similar to those obtainable by SHERLOC, to strengthen the confidence of kerogen detection as a potential biosignature in complex samples.
Source: [Astrobiology (via SETI Institute)]July 06, 2018 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Artist concept of the early Earth. Source: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab
A recent study provides new constraints on the environmental conditions that were present on the ancient Earth. Previous approximations of early Earth’s climate and ocean pH vary dramatically, but the new study aims to provide more accurate estimates. This is important because these conditions could have profoundly influenced the origins and early evolution of life.
In the study, researchers applied a self-consistent geological carbon cycle model to the last 4 billion years of Earth’s history. The results predict that the climate was temperate, and that the ocean pH was nearly neutral throughout the Precambrian (4.6 billion years ...
Source: [Astrobiology at NASA]June 28, 2018 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, workers prepare to lift the Mars Exploration Rover-1 (MER-B) onto a spin table during preflight processing of the spacecraft. Researchers at Cal Poly offer the first biochemical evidence explaining the reason why contamination persist after use of the cleaning facility. Image source: NASA/JPL/KSC
Dr. Rakesh Mogul, professor of biological chemistry at Cal Poly Pomona and a 2016 Minority Institute Research Support (MIRS) Program (now the Astrobiology Faculty Diversity Program) Fellow and his team have discovered a reason why, even after thorough cleaning, certain microbes from spacecrafts can still survive in the clean rooms at NASA.
Excerpted from the press release from Cal Poly Pomona:
The research team analyzed several Acinetobacter strains that were originally isolated from the Mars Odyssey and Phoenix spacecraft facilities. They found that under very nutrient-restricted conditions, most of the tested strains grew on and biodegraded the cleaning agents used ...
Source: [Astrobiology]June 25, 2018 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Scientists develop a new molecular timeline for the production of reactive oxygen species in the evolution of life. Source: Y. J. Taverne et al. / Wiley Online Library
Complex animal life appeared in the earth’s record soon after the second major rise in atmospheric oxygen roughly 800 million years ago. The evolution of enzymatic reduction of oxygen yielded a several-fold increase in energy production by life on Earth, enabling this progression to multicellular animal life. However, higher atmospheric oxygen concentrations would also have been expected to result in increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) – derivatives of oxygen that are harmful to life and that, for humans, can accelerate aging and cardiovascular disease.
Yannick Taverne and his team, with support from Alternative Earths, the NASA Astriobiology Institute Team based at UC Riverside, have developed a molecular timeline for the production of ROS in the evolution of life. The paper is published in BioEssays.
Source: [BioEssays (via UC Riverside)]June 22, 2018 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Potential false positive mechanisms for O2. This cartoon summarizes the atmospheric mechanisms by which O2 could form abiotically at high abundance in a planetary atmosphere (Meadows, 2017).
Researchers are studying how environmental context can help determine whether oxygen (O2) detected in extrasolar planetary observations is more likely to have a biological source. The team provide an in-depth, interdisciplinary example of O2 biosignature identification and observation, which serves as the prototype for the development of a general framework for biosignature assessment.
The article, Exoplanet Biosignatures: Understanding Oxygen as a Biosignature in the Context of Its Environment, is an open access article in the journal Astrobiology. The work was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Program and in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory ...
Source: [Astrobiology]June 18, 2018 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
Group photo of the participants at the 2018 Astrobiology Graduate Conference that took place June 4-7, 2018 in Atlanta Georgia. Image credit: AbGradCon
The 14th Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) was successfully held from June 4-7, 2018 at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in Atlanta, Georgia, with 96 participants presenting 72 posters and 23 oral presentations Oral presentations were streamed via SAGANLive and are available at http://saganet.org/page/saganlive.
The graduate student and postdoctoral fellow attendees hailed from 49 institutions and 9 different countries (Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, United Kingdom, and United States). In addition to the scientific program, the attendees gathered for social activities each night and an educational field trip to the Georgia Aquarium the ...June 15, 2018 / Written by: AbGradCon
Rebecca Rapf awarded with the Maggie C. Turnbull Community Service Award at AbGradCon 2018. Image source: https://turnbullaward.org/.
Rebecca Rapf, a postdoctoral scholar in physical chemistry at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is the first recipient honored with the newly created Maggie C. Turnbull Award for community service.
Rapf was selected from a group of 10 early career astrobiologists nominated by their peers based on their outstanding dedication to education, outreach, community engagement and professional service to the early career community. The award commemorates Margaret “Maggie” C. Turnbull, a pioneer in exoplanet research and the search for life in the universe and founder of the Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon), now in its 14th year of existence.
Read the full press release at the Berkeley SETI Research Center website.June 13, 2018 / Written by: Berkeley SETI Research Center
- August 20 - Application Deadline: Outer Plants Assessment Group (OPAG) Early Career Travel Grant
- August 21 - Seminar: "Ask an Astrobiologist Featuring Dr. Steve Vance"
- August 24 - Application Deadline: ROSES-18 Amendment 21: New opportunity in Mars 2020 Returned Sample Science Participating Scientist Program
- August 24 - Application Deadline: ROSES-18 Amendment 13: C.23 ICEE 2 Step-2 Proposals
- August 31 - Travel Grant Deadline for AGU 2018 Fall Meeting
- August 31 - Registration and Abstract Submission Opens for Kepler and K2 Science Conference V
- August 31 - Application Deadline: Postdoctoral Researcher in Martian Meteorites
- August 31 - Application Deadline: SAGANet.org Astrobiology Expert Call
- September 1 - Application Deadline: Intership Position for Undergraduate Students: Psyche Inspired program
- September 10 - Early Registration Deadline for Europa Deep Dive 2: Chemical Composition of Europa and State of Laboratory Data
- September 11 - Application Deadline: Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life (SCOL) 2019 Postdoctoral Fellowships
- September 17 - Late Registration Deadline for European Astrobiology Conference (EANA 2018)
- September 20 - Registration Deadline for 2nd GeoPlaNet Thematic School - Fluid-Rock Interactions in the Solar System
- September 30 - Application Deadline: HST Observations to Detect Plumes/Outgassing from Europa
- October 1 - Abstract Submission and Registration Opens for Mars Extant Life: What's Next?
- October 1 - Application Deadline: ESA Research Fellowships in Space Science
- October 2 - Registration Deadline for Europa Deep Dive 2: Chemical Composition of Europa and State of Laboratory Data
- October 30 - Application Deadline: Postdoctoral Researcher at Southwest Research Institute (OSIRIS-REx)