A new climate model may explain the mineralogy of Mars
The John W. Kluge Center presents “The Emergence of Life: On the Earth, in the Lab, and Elsewhere,” an astrobiology symposium, on September 15 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The emergence of life is among the most compelling questions in astrobiology. This symposium brings together scientists, humanists, and authors to explore what we know about the origins of life, how we came to know it, and what it means. Organized around the spaces in which we explore the origins of life—in terrestrial nature, in the laboratory, and on other planets—participants will each discuss ...
Source: [Library of Congress]September 12, 2016 / Written by: Library of Congress
The Atlas V rocket launched successfully on September 8, 2016, carrying with it the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on the first US mission to sample an asteroid, retrieve at least two ounces of surface material, and return it to Earth for study. Source: NASA
An Atlas V rocket traced a blazing arc into the Florida sky the evening of September 8, 2016 to send a small robotic explorer on its way to an asteroid on a mission that scientists anticipate will reveal answers to some of the basic questions about the solar system.
“Tonight is a night for celebration, we are on the way to an asteroid,” said Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief scientist. “We’re going to be answering some of the most fundamental questions that NASA works on.”
Lifting off at 7:05 p.m. from Space Launch Complex 41 at ...
Source: [NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida]September 09, 2016 / Written by: Steven Siceloff
Source: Pale Red Dot
The discovery of Proxima b is the biggest exoplanet discovery since the discovery of exoplanets. The planet is not much bigger than Earth and resides in the “habitable zone” of the Sun’s nearest stellar neighbor. This planet may represent humanity’s best chance to search for life among the stars. But is Proxima b habitable? Is it inhabited? These questions are impossible to answer at this time because we know so little about the planet. However, we can extrapolate from the worlds of our Solar System, as well as employ theoretical models of galactic, stellar, and planetary evolution, to ...
Source: [Pale Red Dot]September 08, 2016 / Written by: Rory Barnes
New research at Meteor Crater shows extreme temperatures and pressures during the impact that created the crater 49,000 years ago. Image credit: Aaron Cavosie
In molten sandstone extracted by prospectors a century ago, an international team of scientists has discovered microscopic crystals telling of unimaginable pressures and temperatures when an asteroid formed Meteor Crater in northern Arizona some 49,000 years ago.
The crystals, called zircons, have endured temperatures of 2,000 degrees Celsius or more, hot enough to melt any rock on Earth. In our planet’s crust, such temperatures occur only briefly inside impact zones, says Aaron Cavosie, a visiting professor in the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Wisconsin Astrobiology Research Consortium team at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Zircons are tiny, phenomenally stable ...
Source: [University of Wisconsin-Madison]September 02, 2016 / Written by: David Tenenbaum
Earliest animals evolved in the mid to late Proterozoic Eon and lie deep in the fossil record. Depicted in the photo is an example of the Pteridinium genus. Credit: Douglas Erwin / National Museum of Natural History
Evolution may have been waiting for a decent breath of oxygen, said researcher Chris Reinhard. And that was hard to come by. His research team is tracking down O2 concentrations in oceans, where earliest animals evolved.
By doing so, they have jumped into the middle of a heated scientific debate on what rising oxygen did, if anything, to charge up evolutionary eras. Reinhard, a geochemist from the Georgia Institute of Technology, is shaking up conventional thinking with the help of computer modeling.
That thinking goes like this: “Atmospheric oxygen had a value of ‘x’ back then, and so we just ...
Source: [Georgia Tech]August 31, 2016 / Written by: Ben Brumfield
Artist's impression of the planet orbiting Proxima Centauri. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
The discovery of the new Earth-sized planet candidate in the habitable zone of the star Proxima Centauri, a little more than four light-years away, was announced by ESO on August 24, 2016. The press release followed weeks of speculation and was itself followed by a great deal of excitement. The research paper on the finding has now been published in Nature.
To date, Proxima b is the closest exoplanet to us within a Goldilocks zone, putting it in a prime location for future observations, though whether the planet is actually habitable or possesses any other Earth-like qualities is still uncertain ...August 26, 2016 / Written by: Miki Huynh
The NASA Astrobiology Institute team at Jet Propulsion Laboratory have launched their new website! The Icy Worlds site (https://icyworlds.jpl.nasa.gov/) presents news, multimedia, videos detailing their research investigations, and more. Discover what’s happening in astrobiology at the water-rock interface.August 26, 2016 / Written by: Miki Huynh
The long awaited second edition of the Astrobiology Primer has been published in the journal Astrobiology, and is available to download!
This version is an update of the Primer originally published in 2006 by graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who wanted to provide a comprehensive introduction to the field. The 2016 version contains revised content that addresses the definition of life in scientific research, the origins of planets and planetary systems, the evolution and interactions of life on Earth, habitability on worlds beyond Earth, the search for life, and the overall implications of the astrobiology research. The Primer is intended ...
Source: [Astrobiology]August 23, 2016 / Written by: Miki Huynh
Congratulations to the recipients of the March 2016 NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Fellowships in astrobiology!
Advisor: James Lyons, (Arizona State University, Exobiology)
Topic: “Explaining isotope fractionation of sulphur in the Archean atmosphere”
Advisor: J. Michael Brown/Steve Vance (University of Washington, NAI NASA JPL Icy Worlds team)
Topic: “Comprehensive thermodynamics of aqueous solutions and ice for understanding the habitability of extraterrestrial oceans”
Edward Wade Schwieterman
Advisor: Timothy Lyons (NAI University of California, Riverside team)
Topic: “Visualizing alternative Earths through time and space”
Advisor: Jan Amend (NAI University of Southern California team)
Topic: “Stable Isotope ...August 22, 2016 / Written by: NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI)
A team of researchers studying samples from streams in the High Arctic has uncovered the lowest values measured thus far for stable carbon isotopic composition of dissolved organic matter (δ13C-DOC) in surface waters. When studying dissolved organic matter in environmental samples, scientists look at its stable carbon isotopic composition in order to learn about where the organic matter came from, and the extent to which it was processed by living organisms.
The new study outlines how biological activity has a significant impact on water chemistry in the streams, and indicates that environments with low amounts of dissolved organic carbon ...August 19, 2016 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Nathaniel Comfort, Walter Gilbert, W. Ford Doolittle, Ray Gesteland, and George E. Fox discuss the origins of the RNA World hypothesis at the Kluge Center. The webcast was recorded March 17, 2016. Source: Library of Congress
Back in March 2016, science historian and current Blumberg Chair in Astrobiology, Dr. Nathaniel Comfort, led a program at the Kluge Center entitled “The Origins of the RNA World,” bringing into the conversation four scientists involved in the pivotal shift in origins of life research: Dr. Walter Gilbert, Dr. W. Ford Doolittle, Dr. Ray Gesteland, and Dr. George E. Fox. The webcast is available for streaming.
Comfort later spoke with Dan Turello at the Library of Congress, touching on the history of the RNA World hypothesis, its influence on current research on the last universal common ancestor (LUCA), and how ...
Source: [Library of Congress]August 16, 2016 / Written by: Miki Huynh
SETI’s partially-built Allen Telescope Array in Northern California, the focus of the organization’s effort to collect signals from distant planets, and especially signals that just might have been created by intelligent beings. (SETI)
For decades, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and its SETI Institute home base have been synonymous with the search for intelligent, technologically advanced life beyond Earth. The pathway to some day finding that potentially sophisticated life has been radio astronomy and the parsing of any seemingly unnatural signals arriving from faraway star system — signals that just might be the product of intelligent extraterrestrial life.
It has been a lonely five decade search by now, with some tantalizing anomalies to decipher but no “eurekas.” After Congress defunded SETI in the early 1990s — a Nevada senator led the charge against spending ...
Source: [Many Worlds]August 12, 2016 / Written by: Marc Kaufman
Newly Discovered Fossils Strengthen Proposition that World’s First Mass Extinction Engineered by Early Animals
Fossils from Zaris site in Namibia: left, the discs are fossil remains of the holdfast structures that were holdfast structures for an Ediacaran species called aspidella; middle, bumps on the rock surface are the remains of burrows, called conichnus burrows, that were originally inhabited by anemone-like animals that may have fed on Ediacaran larvae; right, odd annulated and ribbon-like fossils that represent mysterious early animals (likely ecosystem engineers) called shaanxilithes. Image credit: Simon Darroch/Vanderbilt
Newly discovered fossil evidence from Namibia strengthens the proposition that the world’s first mass extinction was caused by “ecosystem engineers” – newly evolved biological organisms that altered the environment so radically it drove older species to extinction.
The event, known as the end-Ediacaran extinction, took place 540 million years ago. The earliest life on Earth consisted of microbes – various types of single-celled organisms. These held sway for more than 3 billion years, when the first multicellular organisms evolved. The most successful of these were the Ediacarans, which spread around the globe about 600 million years ago. They were a largely ...
Source: [Vanderbilt University]August 11, 2016 / Written by: David Salisbury
Basidiomycete yeast was discovered in the cortex of the wolf lichen, as well as among several other species. Image credit: University of Montana
Recent research from the University of Montana has challenged the longstanding textbook definition of lichen.
Before the study was published in Science, lichen was thought to be a symbiosis of a single fungus, usually an ascomycete, and a photosynthesizing bacteria or algae. Lead author Toby Spribille analyzed different species across six continents and discovered the existence of a third essential constituent: basidiomycete yeast. The yeast cells were embedded in the lichen cortex and may provide an explanation for the variety of characteristics seen among the species.
“Basidiomycete yeasts in the cortex of ascomycete macrolichens” has since received wide media coverage ...August 08, 2016 / Written by: Miki Huynh
Colonies of fungi grown on the International Space Station, one of many extreme environments researchers are studying to see how microbes behave.
To test techniques for searching for life on Mars, samples have been collected from the Atacama desert in Chile as part of the European Research Consortium's Habitability of Martian Environments (HOMES) grant.August 05, 2016 / Written by: Elizabeth Howell
- March 23 - Registration Deadlne for 36th Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) Meeting
- March 27 - Registration Deadline for Advances in Space Mass Spectrometry for the Search of Extraterrestrial Signs of Life
- March 28 - Abstract Submission Deadline (EXTENDED) for 3rd Ocean Worlds
- March 30 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 2018 NASA Exploration Science Forum
- March 30 - Seminar: "2018 Georgia Tech Astrobiology Colloquium"
- March 31 - Application Deadline: Planetary Science Section Leadership Opportunities
- March 31 - Application Deadline: Postdoctoral Scholar in Mars Atmospheric Structure, Dynamics, and Aerosols (Caltech)
- April 1 - Early Bird Registration Deadline for 5th European Conference on Permafrost (EUCOP 2018)
- April 1 - Application Deadline: NASA Astrobiology Early Career Collaboration Award
- April 1 - Application Deadline: Nominations for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society Prizes
- April 1 - Application Deadline: Reviewers for Planetary NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF)
- April 2 - Application Deadline for 2018 NASA Planetary Science Summer Seminar
- April 6 - Indication of Interest Deadline for Comparative Climatology of Terrestrial Planets: From Stars to Surfaces (CCTP-3)
- April 12 - Application Deadline: ROSES-18 Amendment (NNH18ZDA001N): C2. Emerging Worlds STEP-1 (Lunar Emphasis Added)
- April 14 - Application Deadline: ELSI Research Scientist Position
- April 15 - Application Deadline: NASA Astrobiology Faculty Diversity Program (formerly Minority Institute Research Support Program)
- April 16 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Cassini Science Symposium 2018
- April 20 - Registration Deadline for Asia Oceanic Geosciences Society (AOGS) 15th Annual Meeting
- NAI 2015 Annual Science Report