Researchers are studying how environmental context can help determine whether oxygen (O2) detected in extrasolar planetary observations is more likely to have a biological source
It is difficult to speculate where this new biology may lead. We may learn to apply universal principles of biology to better understand our own type of life and to do such things as develop artificial cells, tissues and organs that might be better suited for certain purposes as compared to those that can be engineered based only on terrestrial principles.
As a potential location for our second datum of biology, our neighboring planet Mars once again beckons. The possibility that the labeled release experiment (LR), carried to Mars in 1976 aboard the two Viking landers, actually discovered microorganisms is ...November 02, 2001 / Posted by: Shige Abe
On the deep sea floor, along the margins of diverging plates of ocean crust, communities of microscopic organisms live around hot volcanic vents. These seafloor hydrothermal systems have probably existed on Earth since the oceans first formed, more than four billion years ago. The microscopic life around the vents may also have an ancient heritage — genetic comparisons suggest that modern vent microbes are close kin to the earliest forms of life on Earth. These regions are therefore of special interest to astrobiologists, who study the geology, chemistry, and biology of hydrothermal vents to better understand how Earth’s early biosphere ...October 31, 2001 / Posted by: Shige Abe
A team of researchers recently announced that they have found the deepest-living microbes on the planet. These bacteria eat into rock at the bottom of the sea floor, some burrowing down as far as 500 meters (1,640 feet), although most of the microbial activity seems to be in the upper 300 meters (984 feet) of the ocean crust.
“We’ve documented how extensive these microscopic organisms are eating into volcanic rock, leaving worm-like tracks that look like someone has drilled their way in,” says one of the paper’s co-authors, Hubert Staudigel of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at ...October 29, 2001 / Posted by: Shige Abe
Based on a NASA press release
The United States returned to Mars last night as NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey fired its main engine at 7:26 p.m. Pacific time on Oct. 23rd (0226 UT on Oct. 24th) and was captured into orbit around the red planet.
At 7:55 p.m. Pacific time, flight controllers at the Deep Space Network station in Goldstone, Calif., and Canberra, Australia, picked up the first radio signal from the spacecraft as it emerged from behind the planet Mars.
“Early information indicates everything went great,” said Matt Landano, the Odyssey project manager ...October 26, 2001 / Posted by: Shige Abe
When scientists first started to classify life, everything was designated as either an animal or a plant. But as new forms of life were discovered and our knowledge of life on Earth grew, new categories, called ‘Kingdoms,’ were added. There eventually came to be five Kingdoms in all – Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista, and Bacteria.
The five Kingdoms were generally grouped into two categories called Eukarya and Prokarya. Eukaryotes represent four of the five Kingdoms (animals, plants, fungi and protists). Eukaryotes are organisms whose cells have a nucleus — a sort of sack that holds the cell’s DNA. Animals, plants ...October 22, 2001 / Posted by: Shige Abe
Saturn’s giant moon Titan, cloaked in a thick nitrogen atmosphere laced with hydrocarbons, could provide a laboratory in the sky for scientists seeking insight into the origins of life. With the Cassini-Huygens mission, scheduled for a 2004 rendezvous with Saturn and Titan, scientists hope to find evidence for primitive organic chemistry, preserved in the extreme cold of the moon’s icy surface. For while “Titan is not a place where life began or could flourish,” says planetary scientist Jonathan Lunine, it is a good place to look for biomolecules.
Titan is a Mercury-sized world comprised of a 50-50 ...October 19, 2001 / Posted by: Shige Abe
Cindy L. VanDover, a biologist and hydrothermal vent expert at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. wondered if photosynthetic bacteria might live near hydrothermal vents. This was a striking speculation, considering that such vent systems lie thousands of feet deep in the ocean, well below the depth to which sunlight penetrates. The ecosystems surrounding such vents survive because of bacteria that garner energy from hydrogen sulfide, not from light.
But water emerges from hydrothermal vents at hundreds of degrees, kept from boiling only by the intense pressure. The hot water, and perhaps hot rocks, VanDover ...October 17, 2001 / Posted by: Shige Abe
Adapted from an Arizona State University press release
Scientists have conducted an organic analysis of the Tagish Lake meteorite, a rare, carbon-rich meteorite classified as a carbonaceous chondrite. The meteorite fell on a frozen Canadian lake in January 2000, and is the most pristine carbonaceous chondrite specimen ever studied.
The analysis suggests there can be a different outcome for the evolution of organic chemicals in space than from what has been observed in other carbonaceous meteorites. This difference could be due to the possibility that the Tagish Lake meteorite contains carbon molecules that may have accumulated during the formation and ...October 12, 2001 / Posted by: Shige Abe
Based on an Science@NASA press release by Doug Hullander and Patrick L. Barry
Everybody knows space is dangerous. Some of the perils are obvious: hard vacuum, extreme cold, and unpredictable blasts of radiation from the Sun.
Other perils are less conspicuous. The effects of prolonged weightlessness on the human body, for example, can be slow and subtle — yet no less dangerous if astronauts fail to take proper precautions.
Weakening of the bones due to the progressive loss of bone mass is a particularly serious effect of extended spaceflight. Studies of cosmonauts and astronauts who spent many months on ...October 10, 2001 / Posted by: Shige Abe
We know that there are at least 75 planets outside our own solar system, orbiting their distant stars. The rate of planet discovery has sped up recently, and many more planets will likely be discovered in the weeks and years to come.
And yet, we have never seen any of these planets with our own eyes. Planets do not glow like a star – they only reflect light. That makes them a lot harder to see from far away. Any light reflecting off a planet also tends to be overwhelmed by the brightness of the host star.
So how do ...October 03, 2001 / Posted by: Shige Abe
Based on a Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research press release
The Eukarya domain is broken down into four Kingdoms: animals, plants, fungi, and protists. All eukaryotes are characterized by having their DNA enclosed within a cell nucleus. In most eukaryotes, mitochondria act as the powerhouses of the cell. Mitochondria convert food into energy through the respiration of oxygen.
But not all eukaryotes rely on mitochondria for their energy. For instance, the cells of plants and some protists also contain plastids, where photosynthesis takes place and provides the organism with food. Organisms that live in environments without oxygen, such as anaerobic ...September 28, 2001 / Posted by: Shige Abe
Based on a NASA/JPL press release
In a risky flyby, NASA’s ailing Deep Space 1 spacecraft successfully navigated past a comet, giving researchers the best look ever inside the glowing core of icy dust and gas.
The space probe’s close encounter with comet Borrelly provided the best-resolution pictures of the comet to date. The already-successful Deep Space 1, without protection from the little-known comet environment, whizzed by just 2,200 kilometers (1,400 miles) from the rocky, icy nucleus of the 10-kilometer-long (more than 6-mile-long) comet.
Exceeding the team’s expectations of how this elderly spacecraft would perform, the ...September 26, 2001 / Posted by: Shige Abe
Based on a Southwest Research Institute press release
The “giant impact” theory, first proposed in the mid-1970s to explain how the Moon formed, has now received a major boost. New computer simulations demonstrate how a single impact could yield the current Earth-Moon system. According to these new results, which appeared in the August 16 issue of Nature, the Moon is a chip off of the terrestrial block.
The Earth-Moon system is unusual in several respects. The Moon has an abnormally low density compared to the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars), indicating that it lacks high-density iron. While the ...September 24, 2001 / Posted by: Shige Abe
Based on a Science @ NASA news story
For more than two decades, northern hemisphere vegetation has become gradually more lush, according to new research based on NASA satellite data.
Researchers confirm that plant life seen above 40 degrees north latitude, which represents a line stretching from New York to Madrid to Beijing, has been growing more vigorously since 1981. One possible cause is rising temperatures, linked perhaps to the buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
The area of northern vegetation has not actually expanded, but it has increased in density. The growing season has also increased by several days ...September 14, 2001 / Posted by: Shige Abe
The last third of the last century could be called the decades of molecular biology. Biologists turned the spotlight of chemistry on biological black boxes and began to understand how cells and inheritance function at a molecular level. The iconic capstone of this work was the sequencing of the human genome.
But Steven A. Benner, a biological chemist at the University of Florida and member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), is turning that trend toward reductionism on its head.
“While all the biologists are rushing to become molecular biologists and chemists,” he says, “here we are chemists trying ...September 10, 2001 / Posted by: Shige Abe
- July 17 - Abstract Submission Deadline for The First Billion Years: Bombardment
- July 18 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Late Mars Workshop
- July 30 - Early Registration Deadline for Comparative Climatology of Terrestrial Planets III
- July 30 - Early Registration Deadline for Comparative Climatology of Terrestrial Planets: From Stars to Surfaces (CCTP-3)
- August 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for AGU 2018 Session P046: “The New Mars Underground”: Science and Exploration of a New Deep Frontier
- August 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for AGU 2018 Fall Meeting
- August 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for AGU 2018 Session B092: Understanding the Biogeochemistry of Nitrogen Inputs and Outputs from Molecular to Global Scales
- August 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 9th Planetary Crater Consortium Meeting
- August 1 - Registration Deadline for Experimental Analysis of the Outer Solar System Workshop
- August 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for AGU 2018 Session P044: Super-Earth Detection, Characterization and Modeling - How Habitable Are They?
- August 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for AGU 2018 Session P049: The Interiors of Jupiter and Saturn in the Era of Juno and Cassini
- August 1 - Application Deadline: AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science
- August 1 - Application Deadline: NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Opportunity at NASA Ames Astrochemistry Laboratory
- August 13 - Registration Deadline for Comparative Climatology of Terrestrial Planets III
- August 13 - Registration Deadline for Comparative Climatology of Terrestrial Planets: From Stars to Surfaces (CCTP-3)
- August 14 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Geological Society of America (GSA) 2018 Meeting
- August 15 - Application Deadline for European Planetary Science Congress 2018
- August 17 - Application Deadline: Postdoctoral Scholar Position Available in Evolutionary and Isotopic Enzymology