An Ancient Seabed Holds Secrets in the Search for Life on Other Planets
NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is releasing the Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for New Frontiers Program mission investigations. The New Frontiers Program conducts Principal Investigator (PI)-led space science investigations in SMD’s planetary programs under a not-to-exceed cost cap for the PI-Managed Mission Cost. At the conclusion of Phase A concept studies, it is planned that one New Frontiers investigation will be selected to continue into subsequent mission phases. New Frontiers Program investigations must address NASA’s planetary science objectives as described in 2014 NASA Strategic Plan and the 2014 NASA Science Plan. Both documents are now available ...
Source: [NASA’s Science Mission Directorate]December 12, 2016 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
David Grinspoon, astrobiologist and first Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, has published a new book. Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future, which covers Earth’s history and emergence as a habitable planet and the accelerated changes to Earth introduced by humans. In the trailer for his book, Grinspoon addresses our relationship to our planet and how we can develop a vision for the world we want to create in the future.
From the publisher, Hachette Book Group:
“For the first time in Earth’s history, our planet is experiencing a confluence of rapidly accelerating changes ...December 08, 2016 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
Andrew Czaja indicates the layer of rock from which fossil bacteria were collected on a 2014 field excursion near the town of Kuruman in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Source: Aaron Satkoski
While researchers proclaim the first half of our 4.5 billion-year-old planet’s life as an important time for the development and evolution of early bacteria, evidence for these life forms remains sparse.
Recent geology research from the University of Cincinnati presents new evidence for bacteria found fossilized in two separate locations in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa.
“These are the oldest reported fossil sulfur bacteria to date,” says Andrew Czaja, UC assistant professor of geology. “And this discovery is helping us reveal a diversity of life and ecosystems that existed just prior to the Great Oxidation Event ...
Source: [University of Cincinnati]December 07, 2016 • Written by: Melanie Schefft • Report issue
A screenshot from a time lapse video of radio telescopes by Harun Mehmedinovic and Gavin Heffernan of Sunchaser Pictures that was shot at several different radio astronomy facilities—the Very Large Array (VLA) Observatory in New Mexico, Owens Valley Observatory in Owens Valley California, and Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia. All three of these facilities have been or are still being partly used by the SETI (Search for the Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program.
Earlier this summer, Natalie Cabrol, the director of the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute, described a new direction for her organization in Astrobiology Magazine, and I wrote a Many World column about the changes to come.
Cabrol’s “Alien Mindscapes – Perspective on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence” laid out a plan for the new approach to SETI that would take advantage of the goldmine of new exoplanet discoveries in the past decade, as well as the data from fast-advancing technologies. These fresh angles and masses of information come, she wrote, from the worlds of astronomy and astrophysics, as ...
Source: [Many Worlds]December 02, 2016 • Written by: Marc Kaufman • Report issue
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
In the Nature Index 2016 Collaborations, an index compiled by Nature Research and released on November 17, 2016, NASA ranked 6th in the list of the top 100 most collaborative research institutions. The ranking was based on the number of primary articles published in high-quality science journals, with results reflecting connections and partnerships between different nations, institutions, and regions that have allowed scientists to share data and accelerate the progress of their research.
While physical proximity can be a factor for the success of a collaboration, Nature points out that among individual researchers, “factors such as expertise, social networks or ...
Source: [Nature]December 01, 2016 • Written by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
Nitrogen is one of the essential nutrients of life on Earth, with some organisms, such as the kinds of microbes found within the roots of legume plants, capable of converting nitrogen gas into molecules that other species can use.
Nitrogen fixation, as the process is called, involves breaking the powerful chemical bonds that hold nitrogen atoms in pairs in the atmosphere and using the resulting single nitrogen atoms to help create molecules such as ammonia, which is a building block of many complex organic molecules, such as proteins, DNA and RNA.
With organisms playing such a crucial role in the ...
Scientists in Greenland excavating rocks that may hold 3.8-billion-year-old evidence of life. Credit: Laure Gauthiez
Source: [Astrobio.net]November 30, 2016 • Written by: Charles Q. Choi • Report issue
The NASA Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) presents Workshop Without Walls: Impact of Exoplanetary Space Weather On Climate and Habitability.
Dates: November 29th – December 2nd, 2016
Location: New Orleans, LA, and other virtual locations.
Organizers: Vladimir Airapetian (NASA GSFC), William Danchi (NASA GSFC)
To RSVP to attend the event remotely, go to https://nexss.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=88
The landscape of exoplanetary science has changed considerably with the great success of the Kepler mission, which has discovered thousands of transit candidates and hundreds of confirmed exoplanets around K-M dwarf stars and a few planets ...
Source: [NExSS]November 23, 2016 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
On November 16, 2016, Eddie Schwieterman, a NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) fellow with the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) Alternative Earths team, and Giada Arney, NPP fellow at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and member of the NAI Virtual Planetary Laboratory, joined the Night Sky Network (NSN) for Exploring Exoplanet Biosignatures, Potential “False Positives” for Life, and the Case of Proxima Centauri b.
About the webinar (excerpted from NSN):
In the coming years and decades, we will finally gain the ability to characterize potentially habitable planets outside of the solar system. How would we recognize a habitable or inhabited planet ...
Source: [Night Sky Network]November 21, 2016 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
Deadlines for several early career travel awards are quickly coming due.
Small Bodies Assessment Group: Early Career Travel Support
Deadline: November 25, 2016
SBAG is offering limited U.S. travel support for early career scientists to participate in the SBAG 16 meeting, to be held at the University of Arizona on January 11–13, 2017. Support is for undergraduate students, graduate students, postdocs, and other early career scientists (within 3 years of PhD/MS/BS).
2016 Pierazzo International Student Travel Award
Deadline: November 30, 2016
Two awards ...November 17, 2016 • Written by: Julie Fletcher • Report issue
Join us for the next NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) Director’s Seminar Series presentation: What Can Extant Genomes Reveal About Early DNA Metabolism?
Presenter: Isaac Cann, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
When: November 21, 2016 1PM PST
DNA serves as the molecule of modern day inheritance, ensuring continuity of life on our planet. Extant modes of DNA synthesis and repair are extremely complex, unlikely to be representative of the situation when DNA initially became the molecule of life. This discrepancy is all the more pronounced since it is likely that early genomes were not as large as those of present day ...
Source: [NAI Seminars and Workshops]November 16, 2016 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
A computer-assisted model of the Mars 2020 rover, which is expected to look for signs of habitable environments on the Red Planet. It also will cache samples for possible return to Earth by another mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Single-celled microbes are considered a living example of the kind of life that might exist elsewhere in the Universe, as they are able to survive some of the extreme conditions that exist on other worlds.
New research on the bacterium Tepidibacillus decaturensis shows that it could be a model organism for what might live on Mars, should any creature inhabit the red planet. This microorganism, found in water more than a mile underground in the Illinois Basin in a formation known as Mount Simon Sandstone, has been shown to be moderately tolerant of heat and salt and able to persist ...
Source: [astrobio.net]November 15, 2016 • Posted by: Aaron Gronstal • Report issue
Aaron Satkoski used the UW-Madison Department of Geoscience's mass spectrometer to measure isotopes in samples collected from South Africa. Image credit: David Tenenbaum
As scientists continue finding evidence for life in the ocean more than 3 billion years ago, those ancient fossils pose a paradox.
Organisms, including the single-celled bacteria living in the ocean at that early date, need a steady supply of phosphorus, but “it’s very hard to account for this phosphorus unless it is eroding from the continents,” says Aaron Satkoski, a scientist in the geoscience department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “So that makes it really hard to explain the fossils we see at this early era.”
Satkoski, who is first author of a new report on ocean ...
Source: [University of Wisconsin-Madison]November 07, 2016 • Written by: David Tenenbaum • Report issue
Fossil photo from the Ediacara Biota. Source: James Gehling
Earth’s earliest community of complex sea creatures lived in a warm, slimy, planetary petri dish that nurtured a broad array of exotic species. Yet we likely wouldn’t know about it at all, scientists say, if not for a quirk in the chemistry of ancient oceans.
A Yale-led research team found that the Ediacara Biota, a collection of marine fossils found in sandstone around the world, record the operation of an unusual mechanism that preserved impressions of the creatures’ soft bodies for hundreds of millions of years. The findings appear in the journal Geology. The research is supported in ...
Source: [Yale News]November 03, 2016 • Written by: Jim Shelton • Report issue
Transmission electron microscopy images of carbon-sulfer structures that form in the presence of yeast extract. Arrows point to carbon shells; the dark areas are filled with sulfur. Source: J. Cosmidis & A. Templeton (via Nature Communications)
Self-assembling carbon microstructures created in a lab by University of Colorado Boulder researchers could provide new clues – and new cautions – in efforts to identify microbial life preserved in the fossil record, both on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system.
The geological search for ancient life frequently zeroes in on fossilized organic structures or biominerals that can serve as “biosignatures” that survive in the rock record over extremely long time scales. Mineral elements such as sulfur are often formed through biological activity. Microbes can also produce a variety of telltale extracellular structures that resemble sheaths and stalks.
However, according to ...
Source: [University of Colorado, Boulder]October 28, 2016 • Written by: University of Colorado, Boulder • Report issue
The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS), a NASA research coordination network dedicated to the study of planetary habitability, is pleased to announce a five-day conference on “Habitable Worlds 2017: A System Science Workshop” from Nov 13-17, 2017 in Laramie, WY. The field of exoplanets is currently at the cusp of a watershed moment in finding life on other worlds, propelled by the discoveries of habitable zone terrestrial planets in both ground and space-based surveys, and the potential for future telescopes to characterize the atmospheres of some of these rocky planets. Preparing for such a singular moment needs a diverse ...
Source: [NExSS]October 27, 2016 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
- September 20 - Registration Deadline for 2nd GeoPlaNet Thematic School - Fluid-Rock Interactions in the Solar System
- September 21 - Application Deadline: Student Travel Funding Opportunity to Attend GSA Annual Fall Meeting
- September 21 - Application Deadline: Research Physical Scientist, Chemical & Biological Evolution
- September 21 - Application Deadline: Planetary Science Division Director
- September 25 - Seminar: "Ask an Astrobiologist Featuring Dr. Amanda Stockton"
- September 30 - Application Deadline: HST Observations to Detect Plumes/Outgassing from Europa
- September 30 - Application Deadline: Research Scientist: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- 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 1 - Application Deadline: Postdoctoral Research Scholar (JOB# 12520) - Arizona State University
- October 2 - Registration Deadline for Europa Deep Dive 2: Chemical Composition of Europa and State of Laboratory Data
- October 8 - Application Deadline: T.C. Chamberlin Postdoctoral Fellowship
- October 30 - Application Deadline: Postdoctoral Researcher at Southwest Research Institute (OSIRIS-REx)
- November 1 - Application Deadline: National Air and Space Museum Postdoctoral Earth and Planetary Sciences Fellowship
- November 1 - Application Deadline: Tenure-track Faculty Position in Geochemistry
- November 1 - Application Deadline: Ph.D. Position in Astrochemistry, Star and Planet Formation
- November 15 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Mars Extant Life: What's Next?
- November 15 - Abstract Submissio Deadline for Kepler and K2 Science Conference V