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  1. NASA Astrobiology Program Student Early Career Collaboration Awards - Deadline October 2


    Applications for the next cycle of the NASA Astrobiology Early Career Collaboration Award are due October 2, 2017. Image credit: None
    Applications for the next cycle of the NASA Astrobiology Early Career Collaboration Award are due October 2, 2017.

    Don’t miss the next opportunity to apply for an Astrobiology Early Career Collaboration Award! The deadline is October 2, 2017.

    The Astrobiology Early Career Collaboration Awards offer research-related travel support for undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and junior scientists. Applicants are encouraged to use these resources to circulate among two or more laboratories supported by the NASA Astrobiology Program (Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology, the NAI, Planetary Science and Technology Through Analog Research, MatiSSE, PICASSO and the Habitable Worlds), however any travel that is critical for the applicant’s research will be considered. Travelers must be formally affiliated with a U.S ...

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  1. Seeing Emergent Physics Behind Evolution


    PI Nigel Goldenfeld of the Institute for Universal Biology, the NASA Astrobiology Institute team based at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was featured in Quanta Magazine, where he talks about collective phenomena, expanding the Modern Synthesis model of evolution, and using quantitative and theoretical tools from physics to gain insights into mysteries surrounding early life on Earth, and the interactions between cyanobacteria and predatory viruses.

    Read the story in Quanta Magazine.

    Source: [Quanta Magazine]

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  1. Library of Congress Symposium: Life As It Could Be: Astrobiology, Synthetic Biology, and the Future of Life


    Image credit: None

    Luis Campos, the 2016-2017 Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, is hosting a symposium entitled “Life As It Could Be: Astrobiology, Synthetic Biology, and the Future of Life.”

    Date/Time: Thursday, September 28, 2017 from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
    Location: The John W. Kluge Center, Room 119, Thomas Jefferson Building

    What is life? How might life have emerged on Earth or on other worlds? And how might we engineer the future of life—what might we make life to be? Astrobiologists and synthetic biologists grapple with these questions every day. To further ...

    Source: [Library of Congress]

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  1. NAI 2016 Annual Science Report


    Image credit:

    The Annual report has been removed pending final review by NASA HQ. The reviewed report will be reposted by Oct 1, 2017.

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  1. As Oceans Alkalized, Life Developed Bones and Shells


    View of carbonate rocks from Mount Slipper, Yukon that contain apatitic scale microfossils. Fossils are found by dissolving the carbonate rocks in weak acid. Canadian penny for scale. Credit: Justin V. Strauss Image credit: None
    View of carbonate rocks from Mount Slipper, Yukon that contain apatitic scale microfossils. Fossils are found by dissolving the carbonate rocks in weak acid. Canadian penny for scale. Credit: Justin V. Strauss Scanning electron microscope image of a cluster of biomineralized ASM fossils from Mount
Slipper. Fossils are found by dissolving carbonate rocks from Mount Slipper in weak acid. These structures likely acted as armor, with many plates of the same type surrounding a single cell. Credit: Phoebe A. Cohen Image credit: None
    Scanning electron microscope image of a cluster of biomineralized ASM fossils from Mount Slipper. Fossils are found by dissolving carbonate rocks from Mount Slipper in weak acid. These structures likely acted as armor, with many plates of the same type surrounding a single cell. Credit: Phoebe A. Cohen

    Source: [astrobio.net]

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  1. This Enzyme Enabled Life to Conquer a Hostile Earth


    Betül Kacar in her lab. Image credit: None
    Betül Kacar in her lab.

    Computers are simulating the ancestral versions of the most common protein on Earth, giving scientists an unparalleled look at early life’s development of harnessing energy from the Sun and production of oxygen.

    These findings could shed light on the evolution of alien life elsewhere in the Universe, researchers said. They recently detailed their findings in the online version of the journal Geobiology.

    Photosynthesis, which uses energy from sunlight to create sugars and other carbon-based organic molecules from carbon dioxide gas, has played a major role in Earth’s history. Photosynthesis supports the existence of plants and other photosynthetic organisms ...

    Source: [astrobio.net]

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  1. A Simple Bacterium Reveals How Stress Drives Evolution


    E.coli, a common bacteria. Image credit: None
    E.coli, a common bacteria.

    A common bacteria is furthering evidence that evolution is not entirely a blind process, subject to random changes in the genes, but that environmental stressors can also play a role.
    A NASA-funded team is the first group to design a method demonstrating how transposons — DNA sequences that move positions within a genome — jump from place to place.

    The researchers saw that the jumping rate of these transposons, aptly-named “jumping genes,” increases or decreases depending on factors in the environment, such as food supply.

    “This is a new window into how environment can affect evolution rates,” said Nigel Goldenfeld, director ...

    Source: [astrobio.net]

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  1. Examining Mars Analog Rocks in Northern Ontario


    On August 10, CTV News spotlighted NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) scientists testing instruments and examining Mars analog rocks in Timmons, Ontario, Canada. Pablo Sobron and Adrian Brown, both scientists with the team at SETI, are featured in the news story.

    The transcript is available at CTV News.

    Source: [CTV News Northern Ontario]

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  1. Purple Signs of Life


    Astrobiologists examine purple microorganisms as a possible link to life on early Earth and other planets. Image source: CNN Image credit: None
    Astrobiologists examine purple microorganisms as a possible link to life on early Earth and other planets. Image source: CNN

    A story published in CNN takes a look at the color purple and how astrobiologists are considering the possible connection between purple organisms and the evolution of life on early Earth and other planets.

    The Purple Earth hypothesis, first presented by microbiologist Shil Dassarma at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, suggests that ancient microbes may have relied on retinal rather than chlorophyll to harness energy from sunlight. Retinal is easier to produce in low-oxygen environments and, because it absorbs green light and reflects a combination of red and violet, makes the organism appear purple. The pigment is evident ...

    Source: [CNN]

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  1. NASA Finds Moon of Saturn Has Chemical That Could Form ‘Membranes’


    This Cassini image from 2012 shows Titan and its host planet Saturn. Image credit: None
    This Cassini image from 2012 shows Titan and its host planet Saturn.

    NASA scientists have definitively detected the chemical acrylonitrile in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan, a place that has long intrigued scientists investigating the chemical precursors of life.

    On Earth, acrylonitrile, also known as vinyl cyanide, is useful in the manufacture of plastics. Under the harsh conditions of Saturn’s largest moon, this chemical is thought to be capable of forming stable, flexible structures similar to cell membranes. Other researchers have previously suggested that acrylonitrile is an ingredient of Titan’s atmosphere, but they did not report an unambiguous detection of the chemical in the smorgasbord of organic, or ...

    Source: [NASA]

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  1. An Earth-like Atmosphere May Not Survive Proxima b’s Orbit


    This artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the solar system. Image credit: None
    This artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the solar system.

    Proxima b, an Earth-size planet right outside our solar system in the habitable zone of its star, may not be able to keep a grip on its atmosphere, leaving the surface exposed to harmful stellar radiation and reducing its potential for habitability.

    At only four light-years away, Proxima b is our closest known extra-solar neighbor. However, due to the fact that it hasn’t been seen crossing in front of its host star, the exoplanet eludes the usual method for learning about its atmosphere. Instead, scientists must rely on models to understand whether the exoplanet is habitable.

    One such computer model ...

    Source: [NASA]

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  1. The Great Oxidation Event and the Rubisco Family Tree


    Scientists trace the points in time where Rubisco branched out in diverse forms, before and after the Great Oxidation Event. Source: B. Kacar Image credit: None
    Scientists trace the points in time where Rubisco branched out in diverse forms, before and after the Great Oxidation Event. Source: B. Kacar

    Scientists with the NASA Astrobiology Institute Postdoctoral Program at Harvard University are tracing the evolution of an abundant and important enzyme that jumpstarts a separation between non-living and living.

    Rubisco (ribulose-1,5-biphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase) is the key catalyst for a reaction that converts inorganic carbon to organic carbon. In plant, algae, and certain bacteria cells, Rubisco helps to connect carbon dioxide to ribulose 1,5-biphosphate (RuBP) to create the first stage of the Calvin cycle and the production of sugar; Rubisco can also catalyze RuBP to bind with oxygen in a competing reaction.

    Betul Kacar and her team, using computational ...

    Source: [Geobiology]

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  1. Watch Talks from AbGradCon 2017


    Participants at the Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) 2017 held in Charlottesville, VA. Image credit: None
    Participants at the Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) 2017 held in Charlottesville, VA.

    The Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) 2017 was held in Charlottesville, VA and hosted by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. A four-day Proposal Writing Retreat (PWR) at the Green Bank Observatory in Green Bank, WV preceded the conference. During PWR, twenty-nine early career scientists, including four organizers, wrote, presented, and peer-reviewed nine proposals and selected three top proposals to present at AbGradCon immediately following the retreat. AbGradCon included 85 participants who engaged in talks followed by in-depth Q&A, took part in four poster sessions, and mingled over games and refreshments in the evenings.

    You can view recordings of talks from ...

    Source: [AbGradCon 2017]

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  1. 2017 NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellowship Program Selections


    Image credit: None

    We are pleased to announce the March 2017 selections for the NASA Astrobiology Program element of the NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP):

    Peter Conlin
    Advisor: Will Ratcliff, Georgia Institute of Technology (Exobiology; Evolution of Advanced Life)
    Topic: “Experimentally investigating the origin and consequences of fitness decoupling during the transition to multicellularity”

    Juan Rosas Bonilla
    Advisor: Jun Korenaga, Yale University (NAI University of California, Riverside team)
    Topic: “Early Earth Geodynamics and Continental Evolution”

    Jaclyn Saunders
    Advisor: Tanja Bosak (NAI Massachusetts Institute of Technology team)
    Topic: “Arsenic based metabolisms in the open ocean: an unexplored frontier”

    Nicholas Speller
    Advisor: Amanda Stockton, Georgia Institute ...

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  1. Astrobiology Sessions at GSA 2017


    Image credit: None

    The 2017 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting takes place on October 22-25 in Seattle, Washington. Below is a highlight of sessions co-coordinated by scientists with the Alternative Earths and Virtual Planetary Laboratory (VPL) teams of the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

    GSA is still accepting abstracts for sessions. The deadline to submit an abstract is August 1, 2017.

    T58. Oxygen and Ecosystems from the Proterozoic to the Paleozoic
    Noah J. Planavsky, Devon B. Cole, Christopher T. Reinhard
    Paleontological Research Institution; Paleontological Society; GSA Geobiology & Geomicrobiology Division
    Recently there have been sustained efforts to develop a more comprehensive understanding of coupled ...

    Source: [Geological Society of America]

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