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  1. Recap of the 2018 Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon)


    Group photo of the participants at the 2018 Astrobiology Graduate Conference that took place June 4-7, 2018 in Atlanta Georgia. Image credit: AbGradCon Image credit: None
    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 ...

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  1. Astrobiologist Rebecca Rapf Receives Inaugural Maggie C. Turnbull Early Career Award


    Rebecca Rapf awarded with the Maggie C. Turnbull Community Service Award at AbGradCon 2018. Image source: <a href="https://turnbullaward.org/" target="_blank">https://turnbullaward.org/</a>. Image credit: None
    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.

    Source: [Berkeley SETI Research Center / AbGradCon]

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  1. Searching for the Great Oxidation Event in North America


    Map showing the distribution of the Huronian Supergroup and other Paleoproterozoic successions in the Great Lakes area. The two studied drill cores (150–4, 156–1) are located ca. 10 km north of the city of Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada. Modified from the work of Rasmussen et al. (2013). Image credit: None
    Map showing the distribution of the Huronian Supergroup and other Paleoproterozoic successions in the Great Lakes area. The two studied drill cores (150–4, 156–1) are located ca. 10 km north of the city of Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada. Modified from the work of Rasmussen et al. (2013).

    Members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute University of Wisconsin Team have reported the first in situ analysis of all four S isotopes in metasediments of the Paleoproterozoic Huronian Supergroup and examine sulfur isotope evidence for the Great Oxidation Event (GOE). The early study of Papineau et al. (2007) argued for placement of the GOE within the lower Huronian. However, this interpretation is not supported by the improved precision, analysis of 36S, and new textural interpretations of this study. Values of Δ33S are uniformly from -0.07 to 0.38‰ in the lower Huronian. The most commonly analyzed ...

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  1. Astrobiology Activities at the Chickasaw Nation Aviation and Space Academy


    Team members Gustavo Cruz-Diaz and Christopher Materese pose with Chickasaw students at the Chickasaw Nation Aviation and Space Academy (CNASA). Image credit: None
    Team members Gustavo Cruz-Diaz and Christopher Materese pose with Chickasaw students at the Chickasaw Nation Aviation and Space Academy (CNASA).

    Team members Gustavo Cruz-Diaz and Christopher Materese of the NAINASA Ames Research Center Team, participated in the Chickasaw Nation Aeronautics and Space Academy (CNASA) held in Ada, Oklahoma on June 5, 2018. The Chickasaw Nation has been conducting this week-long camp for several years in order to encourage their Native American students to consider careers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. Drs. Materese and Cruz-Diaz talked to 22 students (8th to 12th grade) about research at NASA and made presentations that included several hands-on science demonstrations. The activities were designed to teach the students about molecular ...

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  1. NASA Finds Ancient Organic Material, Mysterious Methane on Mars


    This low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called "Buckskin" on lower Mount Sharp. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS Image credit: None
    This low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called "Buckskin" on lower Mount Sharp. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

    NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.

    The press release is available through NASA.

    A feature story by Marc Kaufman, “Breakthrough Findings on Mars Organics and Mars Methane,” is also available at Astrobiology at NASA.

    Source: [NASA]

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  1. Habitability of the Young Earth Could Boost the Chances of Life Elsewhere


    An artist’s concept of the early Earth. While still fairly inhospitable compared to today’s standards, the early Earth may have had a more moderate climate and ocean temperature and pH than had been thought. Image credit: NASA. Image credit: None
    An artist’s concept of the early Earth. While still fairly inhospitable compared to today’s standards, the early Earth may have had a more moderate climate and ocean temperature and pH than had been thought. Image credit: NASA.

    The conditions on the early Earth have long been a mystery, but researchers from NASA and the University of Washington have now devised a way to account for the uncertain variables of the time, in turn discovering that the conditions of early Earth may have been more moderate than previously thought.

    By applying these findings to other rocky planets, the researchers, whose results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, conclude that the time-frame and likelihood of life persisting elsewhere is greater than first thought.

    Read the full story at Astrobiology Magazine.

    Source: [Astrobiology Magazine (astrobio.net)]

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  1. AbGradCon 2018 Live Webcast


    Image credit: None

    The Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) 2018, taking place June 4-8, will be webcast live via Livestream to SAGANet.org, the NASA Astrobiology Facebook page, and the NASA Astrobiology Institute Seminars and Workshops page.

    For more information, visit the AbGradCon website.

    Source: [AbGradCon]

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  1. Maggie C. Turnbull Astrobiology Early Career Service Award


    Image credit: None

    The Conveners of the 2018 Astrobiology Graduate Conference and the Berkeley SETI Research Center are proud to announce the creation of a new early career community service award in honor of Maggie C. Turnbull, the founder of the Astrobiology Graduate Conference.

    The call for Award Nominations are open through June 3rd, 2018.

    Source: [SAGANet.org]

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  1. Atmospheric Seasons Could Signal Life on Exoplanets


    Satellites monitor how ‘greenness’ changes with Earth’s seasons. Image source: NASA (via UCR) Image credit: None
    Satellites monitor how ‘greenness’ changes with Earth’s seasons. Image source: NASA (via UCR)

    The current approach to the search for life on exoplanets involves scanning for biological signs, such as in the chemistry of the atmosphere and the presence of molecules like O2, CO2, and CH4. However, a detected presence, or absence, of a biosignature alone may only give us a partial or inaccurate picture.

    Scientists with the NASA Astrobiology Institute Alternative Earths team based at the University of California, Riverside are devising a new strategy, and they are developing the first quantitative framework for investigating dynamic biosignatures based on seasonal changes in the Earth’s atmosphere. Just as the balance of atmospheric gases on Earth shift from season to season, patterns of change in atmospheric conditions over time could also naturally occur on exoplanets.

    “Atmospheric Seasonality as an Exoplanet Biosignature” is published in the The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    A press release by Sarah Nightingale is available through UCR Today. The story has been picked up by news outlets including Eureka Alert and Fox News.

    Source: [University of California, Riverside]

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  1. Genome Sequence of a Chemolithoautotrophic Sulfur and Iron Oxidizer


    Southwest of the Los Angeles coast lies Santa Catalina Island, a 35-kilometer- (22-mile-) long island that runs roughly northwest to southeast, and spans 13 kilometers (8 miles) at its widest point. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory Image credit: None
    Southwest of the Los Angeles coast lies Santa Catalina Island, a 35-kilometer- (22-mile-) long island that runs roughly northwest to southeast, and spans 13 kilometers (8 miles) at its widest point. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory

    Researchers have sequenced the genome of Hydrogenovibrio sp. strain SC-1, a microaerophilic neutrophilic iron-oxidizing bacteria. This bacteria was isolated from pyrrhotite, which was incubated in situ in marine surface sediments off of Catalina Island in southern California, USA. SC-1 is the only known iron-oxidizing bacterium in the family Piscirickettsiaceae, and can use energy from the oxidation of iron to grow. Bacteria with this ability are important to the cycling of iron in marine environments, which is an essential trace element that can limit primary productivity in surface waters. In additon, SC-1 is a member of a group of bacteria known for autotrophic thiosulfate oxidation and obligate chemolithoautotrophy.

    The study, “Genome Sequence of Hydrogenovibrio sp. Strain SC-1, a Chemolithoautotrophic Sulfur and Iron Oxidizer ,” was published in the journal Genome Announcements. The work was supported in part by NASA Astrobiology through the Exobiology Program and the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI).

    Source: [Astrobiology at NASA]

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  1. New Book Published on the Societal Impact of Astrobiology


    From the cover of <i>Astrobiology, Discovery, and Societal Impact</i> by Steven J. Dick, the second Baruch S. Blumberg/Library of Congress Chair. Image credit: None
    From the cover of Astrobiology, Discovery, and Societal Impact by Steven J. Dick, the second Baruch S. Blumberg/Library of Congress Chair.

    What will happen if we discover life beyond Earth, either microbial or intelligent? Steven Dick, the second Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, has just published a book on this subject based on his research at the Library of Congress.

    Source: [Steven J. Dick / Cambridge University Press]

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  1. NASA and ESA Statement of Intent (SOI) to Develop Joint Mars Sample Return Plan


    Artist's conception of the Mars Sample Return mission. Image source: NASA JPL Image credit: None
    Artist's conception of the Mars Sample Return mission. Image source: NASA JPL

    On April 26, 2018 NASA and European Space Agency signed a Statement of Intent (SOI) to jointly develop a Mars Sample Return plan to be submitted to their respective authorities by the end of 2019.

    The joint statement of intent is available as a PDF athttps://mepag.jpl.nasa.gov/announcements/2018-04-26%20NASA-ESA%20SOI%20(Signed).pdf.

    For more information on NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) and to view announcements, visit: https://mepag.jpl.nasa.gov/announcements.cfm?expand=hq

    Source: [MEPAG]

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  1. NASA Selects New Science Teams for the NASA Astrobiology Institute


    Image credit: None

    Please join the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) in welcoming three new research teams to the Institute!


    Evolution of Nanomachines in Geospheres and Microbial Ancestors (ENIGMA)
    Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey

    Led by Professor Paul Falkowski, the ENIGMA team will investigate how proteins evolved to become the catalysts of life on Earth by looking at prebiotic molecules and enzymes that are ancestral and common across many types of microbes.

    The Astrobiology Center for Isotopologue Research (ACIR)
    Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

    ACIR, led by Professor Kate Freeman, will address how the features of elements within molecules reveal the origins and history of organic compounds, from compounds that arrived from planetary environments to those that were derived from metabolic systems, using cutting-edge observational and computational tools.

    Habitability of Hydrocarbon Worlds: Titan and Beyond
    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)Pasadena, California

    Dr. Rosaly Lopes will lead research at JPL focusing on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, to address what habitable environments may exist on the moon and what potential signatures of life would be expected, using data from the Cassini-Huygens mission. These data cover a wide swath of the moon, from beneath its surface all the way up through its thick atmosphere.

    Source: [NASA]

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  1. NASA’s InSight Spacecraft on Its Way to Mars


    A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, carrying NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) Mars lander. Liftoff was at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT). Photo Credit: NASA/Cory Huston Image credit: None
    A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, carrying NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) Mars lander. Liftoff was at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT). Photo Credit: NASA/Cory Huston

    NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) spacecraft is on its way to Mars. InSight launched on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT), May 5, from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

    InSight is the first interplanetary mission to launch from the West Coast, and will be the first mission to look deep beneath the Martin surface. It will study the planet’s interior by measuring its heat output and listening for marsquakes. InSight will use the seismic waves generated by marsquakes to develop a map of the planet’s deep interior. The resulting insight into Mars’ formation will provide a better understanding of how other rocky planets, including Earth were created.

    The full press release, as well as up to date information, is available at the NASA Insight Mission website.

    Source: [NASA]

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  1. Victoria Meadows Receives the 2018 Drake Award


    Dr. Victoria Meadows received SETI's Drake Award in June 2018. Image Source: University of Washington. Image credit: None
    Dr. Victoria Meadows received SETI's Drake Award in June 2018. Image Source: University of Washington.

    Victoria Meadows wants to know what life beyond Earth looks like. How can we tell whether a neighboring exoplanet located 4 or 20 or 100 lightyears away from Earth is able to sustain life? At the NASA Astrobiology Institute Virtual Planetary Laboratory, Victoria and her team are developing computer models to understand how stars and planets interact to enable a planet to support life, and how even primitive life might impact its planetary environment in ways we could detect and interpret over interstellar distances.

    On June 14, 2018, the SETI Institute will recognize Victoria S. Meadows with the 2018 Drake Award in celebration of her contributions to the field of astrobiology and her work as a researcher, leader and inspiration for everyone working in her field.

    Read the full press release from the SETI Institute.

    Source: [SETI]

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