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  1. Workshops Without Walls: Astrovirology


    Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by maciek905/Thinkstock and Thinkstock. Image credit: None
    Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by maciek905/Thinkstock and Thinkstock.

    Dates: Wed, Sept 18 8:00AM – 12:00PM and Thurs, Sept 19 1:00PM – 5:00PM

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Astrobiology Institute (NAI) is hosting a virtual Workshop Without Walls on Astrovirology to review and advance the science of understanding what a virus is, their origin, ecology, impact on evolution, and their role in exobiology as a biosignature.

    This virtual workshop will be over two half-days to enabled global scientific exchange with no attendance costs or travel required. Topics covered will presented in a manner to reach a range of scientific understanding including students, researchers, educators, science ...

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  1. Rutgers Researchers Identify the Origins of Metabolism


    Life may have arisen near hydrothermal vents rich in iron and sulfur. The earliest cells incorporated these elements into small peptides, which became the first and simplest ferredoxins – proteins that shuttle electrons within the cell, to support metabolism. As cells evolved, ferredoxins mutated into more complex forms. The ferredoxins in modern bacteria, plant and animal cells are all derived from that simple ancestor. Credit: Ian Campbell, Rice University Image credit: None
    Life may have arisen near hydrothermal vents rich in iron and sulfur. The earliest cells incorporated these elements into small peptides, which became the first and simplest ferredoxins – proteins that shuttle electrons within the cell, to support metabolism. As cells evolved, ferredoxins mutated into more complex forms. The ferredoxins in modern bacteria, plant and animal cells are all derived from that simple ancestor. Credit: Ian Campbell, Rice University

    A Rutgers-led study sheds light on one of the most enduring mysteries of science: How did metabolism – the process by which life powers itself by converting energy from food into movement and growth – begin?

    To answer that question, the researchers reverse-engineered a primordial protein and inserted it into a living bacterium, where it successfully powered the cell’s metabolism, growth and reproduction, according to the study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Source: [Rutgers Today]

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  1. Ramparts Discovered Around Titan Lakes


    Right: T16 SAR image of Viedma Lacus. Cyan arrows denote portions of the perimeter of the rampart feature, a SAR-bright apron that encloses nearly the entire lake. Yellow arrows denote portions of the raised rim. Top Left: Zoom into the raised rim portion of the lake perimeter, denoted by the white box in the right image. The rim appears eroded in multiple sections; Bottom Left: Conceptual model of a lake with a rampart and rim (not to scale). Image credit: None
    Right: T16 SAR image of Viedma Lacus. Cyan arrows denote portions of the perimeter of the rampart feature, a SAR-bright apron that encloses nearly the entire lake. Yellow arrows denote portions of the raised rim. Top Left: Zoom into the raised rim portion of the lake perimeter, denoted by the white box in the right image. The rim appears eroded in multiple sections; Bottom Left: Conceptual model of a lake with a rampart and rim (not to scale).

    Cassini observations of Titan have revealed ~650 polar lakes and seas. Modeling efforts, supported by Cassini data, suggest the liquid composition to be a mixture of methane/ethane with a contribution of dissolved nitrogen. The surface of Titan has abundant carbon-rich molecules (hydrocarbons) that have been shown to form amino acids, the building blocks of proteins needed for life, when exposed to liquid water in laboratory simulations.

    Lake formation remains an open question in Titan science. The discovery of ramparts around a few of these lakes might help shed light on the formation of Titan’s lakes in general and ...

    Source: [Icarus]

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  1. Interdisciplinary Consortia for Astrobiology Research (ICAR) Schedule Update


    The bold notice at the top of C.23 Interdisciplinary Consortia for Astrobiology Research has been updated to note that final text of that program element will be released by October, 2019.

    Step-2 proposals will be due no fewer than 90 days after release of the final text.

    Questions regarding this (TBD) program element may be directed to Mary Voytek.


    The Planetary Science Division intends to solicit Interdisciplinary Consortia for Astrobiology Research (ICAR) to support the goal of the NASA’s Astrobiology program in the study of the origins, evolution, and distribution of life in the Universe. PIs selected as ...

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  1. AbGradCon 2019


    Image credit: None

    The 15th Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) was held from July 22-26, 2019 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, with 75 participants presenting 31 talks and 44 posters.

    The attendees were graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and select undergraduate students from 47 institutions in 7 different countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Israel, Japan, and the United States). In addition to the scientific program, the attendees gathered for informal networking and social activities each night and an educational field trip to the Timpanogos Cave National Monument on the last day of the conference, which included a lecture on ...

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  1. Scientists Discover a New Method for Exploring Europa’s Extraterrestrial Ocean


    Europa's stunning surface, which may hold clues to the characteristics of the oceans hidden underneath. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute Image credit: None
    Europa's stunning surface, which may hold clues to the characteristics of the oceans hidden underneath. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

    Earth is a world of astonishing biodiversity. Yet, despite the extreme variety of lifeforms on our planet, there is one key trait all life here shares: none of it can survive without water. This is why, when scientists scour the cosmos for potentially habitable worlds, the presence of liquid water is one of the most alluring traits a celestial object can exhibit.

    390 million miles away from Earth, an icy moon harbors an abundance of liquid water just below its frozen surface. Jupiter’s moon Europa is home to an extraterrestrial sea that’s billions of years old, and may ...

    Source: [Icarus]

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  1. GSFC Summer Research Associate 2019 Presentations


    Image credit: None

    Undergraduate Research Associates in Astrobiology: End-of Term Research Presentations

    Presenter: Goddard Center for Astrobiology (GCA)
    When: August 9, 2019 1PM EDT / 10AM PDT
    Meeting Link: https://ac.arc.nasa.gov/gsfc/

    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 streamed to the astrobiology community as a whole.

    The Class of 2019 will present on Friday, August 9th at 1-2 PM EDT in Building 34, Room W130. You are invited to attend, either locally or remotely.

    View the full agenda and list of presenters.

    Source: [Goddard Center for Astrobiology (GCA)]

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  1. Workshop Without Walls: Searching for Signs of Subsurface Life on Mars (Extinct and Extant)


    Image credit: None

    August 8th – Fourth Virtual Meeting, Time: 8:00 – 9:30 AM PDT

    Please join us for the fourth Workshop Without Walls on Searching for Signs of Subsurface Life (Extinct and Extant).

    Don’t be concerned if you have not participated in the previous editions, links to view them are at the NAI Workshops Without Walls webpage.

    The deliverables of this activity will be a series of white papers that will be presented to the community, and then submitted to the decadal committee.

    Hope to see you on the 8th.

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  1. AbGradCon 2019: Live Webcast!


    AbGradCon 2019 will be held from July 22-26 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah. Image credit: AbGradCon 2019. Image credit: None
    AbGradCon 2019 will be held from July 22-26 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah. Image credit: AbGradCon 2019.

    AbGradCon (Astrobiology Graduate Conference) provides a unique setting for astrobiologically-inclined graduate students and early career researchers to come together to share their research, collaborate, and network. AbGradCon 2019 marks the 15th year of this conference—each time in a different place and organized by a different group of students, but always with the original charter as a guide.

    Streaming Tuesday July 22 – Thursday July 25

    Watch the Live Webcast

    Since it is organized and attended by only graduate students, post docs, and select undergraduates, AbGradCon is an ideal venue for the next generation of career astrobiologists to form bonds, share ...

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  1. From Apollo to Europa: The Past and Future of Lunar Exploration


    Image from the online atlas created by National Geographic providing a comprehensive look at the moons, including those significant to the study of life in the universe, that populate our cosmic neighborhood. Source: <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2019/07/the-atlas-of-moons/?cmpid=org=ngp::mc=crm-email::src=ngp::cmp=editorial::add=Science_20190717::rid=00000000001036279278" target="_blank">National Geographic</a> Image credit: None
    Image from the online atlas created by National Geographic providing a comprehensive look at the moons, including those significant to the study of life in the universe, that populate our cosmic neighborhood. Source: National Geographic

    “We choose to go to the moon,” President John F. Kennedy proclaimed, in an iconic 1962 speech at Rice University in Texas. “We choose to go to the moon…because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.” With this bold declaration, Kennedy galvanized public support of NASA’s fledgling Apollo program and its unprecedented goal: landing humans on the lunar surface and returning them safely to earth. Before the end of the decade, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would become the first humans to ...

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  1. Beyond the Galileo Experiment


    Solar System Portrait - Earth as 'Pale Blue Dot'.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech Image credit: None
    Solar System Portrait - Earth as 'Pale Blue Dot'. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    In December 1990, the Galileo spacecraft completed its closest approach of our planet. This fly-by mission, led by astronomer Carl Sagan, offered researchers an unprecedented opportunity to study the hallmarks of life on Earth from space along the way to Jupiter.

    Only a few months before the Galileo experiment, Sagan had taken advantage of another remarkable opportunity while working on the Voyager 1 mission. As the interstellar probe reached the fringes of our solar system, Sagan suggested engineers turn its camera around to catch one last glimpse of its home planet. This evocative image of Earth, captured from a distance ...

    Source: [Nature Astronomy]

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  1. AbSciCon 2019 Talks Now on YouTube


    Image credit: None

    AbSciCon 2019 was held in Seattle, WA, from June 24th to June 28th and was a resounding success with just under 1000 attendees sharing their science over five days. This year, 150 talks and sessions were webcast live from two rooms simultaneously, and each of those talks are now available to watch on demand on the NASA Astrobiology YouTube channel.

    NAI 20th Anniversary: A New Discipline Reaches Maturity I

    NAI 20th Anniversary: A New Discipline Reaches Maturity II

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  1. How Scientists Are Searching for Life on Titan


    A false color, infrared view of Saturn's largest moon Titan, captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho Image credit: None
    A false color, infrared view of Saturn's largest moon Titan, captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho

    At the dawn of the new millennium, Titan was a mystery to the scientific community. The alien moon was known as the largest of Saturn’s 62 natural satellites, a Mercury-sized behemoth hidden beneath dense, nitrogen-rich smog. However, the arrival of the Cassini spacecraft in 2004 marked the beginning of an exponential increase in scientists’ limited knowledge of Titan.

    Thanks to the data compiled by Cassini, scientists have now identified Titan as one of the most Earth-like worlds in our solar system. It’s the only place besides Earth to feature liquid rivers and lakes on its surface, and the ...

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  1. AbSciCon 2019 Student Poster Competition


    First place winner, Andrew Gangidine (left), and third place winner, Lavontria Aaron (right), stand with NASA Astrobiology Program Director, Mary Voytek, as they receive the AbSciCon 2019 student poster competition awards. Credit: Michael L. Wong Image credit: None
    First place winner, Andrew Gangidine (left), and third place winner, Lavontria Aaron (right), stand with NASA Astrobiology Program Director, Mary Voytek, as they receive the AbSciCon 2019 student poster competition awards. Credit: Michael L. Wong

    For over 15 years, the NASA Astrobiology Institute has been pleased to host the Student Poster Competition at the Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon), an event which spotlights future astrobiologists and their promising contributions to the field. This year, we are excited to report that seventy-one graduate and undergraduate students participated in the contest.

    1st place was awarded to Andrew Gangidine of the University of Cincinnati for his poster “A Trace Element Biosignature for Life on Early Earth and Mars.”

    Second-place went to Jayme Feyhl-Buska of the University of Southern California for the research “Targeted Enrichments Reveal Potential Metabolisms, Novel Taxa ...

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  1. Key Early Steps for Origin of Life Occur Under a Variety of Conditions


    Scientists conducted a series of test meant to capture complex chemical mixtures like those that lightning strikes may have created before life on Earth. The resulting chemistry may reveal an important step toward the origin of life. Image: Pixabay / AbelEscobar Image credit: None
    Scientists conducted a series of test meant to capture complex chemical mixtures like those that lightning strikes may have created before life on Earth. The resulting chemistry may reveal an important step toward the origin of life. Image: Pixabay / AbelEscobar

    UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Potential precursors to life on Earth form from a variety of complex mixtures, according to a team of scientists who say this could point to the development of building blocks crucial to forming genetic molecules for the origins of life on Earth.

    Genetic molecules provide the ability to store and replicate information and may have been critical for the origin of life, but it is unclear how they arose from complex chemical environments that existed on early Earth. New findings, published this week in the journal Scientific Reports, suggest the answer may start with nitrogen heterocycles, ringed ...

    Source: [PENN State News]

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