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  1. AbSciCon 2019


    Image source: AbSciCon / Astrobiology at NASA Image credit: None
    Image source: AbSciCon / Astrobiology at NASA

    The Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) 2019 takes place June 24-28, 2019 in Seattle, WA. Don’t miss your chance to attend!

    Abstract Submissions Deadline: March 6, 2019
    Registration Deadline: May 30, 2019

    The theme for AbSciCon 2019 is “Understanding and Enabling the Search for Life on Worlds Near and Far.” Within our solar system, icy worlds and Mars have generated excitement, and exoplanets offer numerous and diverse environments where life may exist in other planetary systems. Near future missions and observations will scrutinize many of these targets to understand their environments and search for signs of life. Meanwhile, fundamental research on ...

    Source: [AbSciCon]

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  1. Astrobiology, Discovery, and Societal Impact Wins 2019 PROSE Award


    Second Baruch S. Blumberg/Library of Congress Chair Steven J. Dick's book, <i>Professional and Astrobiology, Discovery, and Societal Impact</i> wins the 2019 Professional Scholarly Excellence Award. Image source: Steven J. Dick / Cambridge University Press Image credit: None
    Second Baruch S. Blumberg/Library of Congress Chair Steven J. Dick's book, Professional and Astrobiology, Discovery, and Societal Impact wins the 2019 Professional Scholarly Excellence Award. Image source: Steven J. Dick / Cambridge University Press

    The Association of American Publishers has named Steven J. Dick’s book Astrobiology, Discovery, and Societal Impact (Cambridge University Press, 2018) the PROSE winner for 2019 in the category of Cosmology and Astronomy. The PROSE (Professional and Scholarly Excellence) Awards are considered the Oscars of academic publishing. The book uses history, discovery, and analogy to analyze the possible impacts to humanity of discovering life beyond Earth.

    The announcement is available at the Assocation of American Publishers website.

    ___

    Related story: New Book Published on the Societal Impact of Astrobiology

    Source: [Association of American Publishers]

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  1. Extremophiles That Love Water Heaters


    Scientists, with the help of citizen scientists, have discovered heat-loving microbes living in water heaters in homes across the United States. Image source: Zhidan Zhang / Penn State Image credit: None
    Scientists, with the help of citizen scientists, have discovered heat-loving microbes living in water heaters in homes across the United States. Image source: Zhidan Zhang / Penn State

    With the help of citizen scientists, researchers have discovered that hardy microorganisms able to live in hot springs and thermal vents are also thriving in water heaters in various homes across the US. The strain T. scotoductus, a strain that has been discovered in environments such as hot springs and gold mines throughout the world, dominates even in locations near the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park where other thermophiles might be expected to predominate.

    The research is published in Extremophile.

    Excerpted from the press release from Penn State News:

    “Water heaters are unique because they are isolated from each ...

    Source: [Extremophile (via Penn State)]

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  1. Abiotic Formation of the Sugar of DNA


    In the Astrophysics and Astrochemistry Lab at NASA's Ames Research Center, researchers Michel Nuevo, Christopher Materese, and Scott Sandford study the cosmic origins of molecules that are important to life. Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center/Dominic Hart Image credit: None
    In the Astrophysics and Astrochemistry Lab at NASA's Ames Research Center, researchers Michel Nuevo, Christopher Materese, and Scott Sandford study the cosmic origins of molecules that are important to life. Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center/Dominic Hart

    The NASA Astrobiology Institute team based at the NASA Ames Research Center have successfully produced 2-Deoxyribose—the sugar component of DNA—from ultraviolet irradiation of water and methanol mixtures under simulated astrophysical conditions. These experiments were conducted in the Astrochemistry Laboratory at Ames and suggest that the compounds to start life could have been delivered via asteroids and comets.

    “Deoxyribose and deoxysugar derivatives from photoprocessed astrophysical ice analogues and comparison to meteorites” is published in Nature Communications.

    A feature story is published at the NASA Ames Research Center website.

    Source: [Nature Communications (via NASA Ames Research Center)]

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  1. SAGANet: Ask an Expert


    Image source: SAGANet Image credit: None
    Image source: SAGANet

    For those curious about the field of astrobiology and don’t know where to start, the Social Action for a Grassroots Astrobiology Network (SAGANet) has created a new “Ask” page for inquiring minds to send questions directly to an astrobiology expert.

    To sign up and submit questions, visit: http://saganet.org/ask

    For more information about the organization, including upcoming events and broadcasts, visit the SAGANet.org website.

    Source: [SAGANet]

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  1. Watch the Landing of NASA's Mars InSight


    This illustration shows a simulated view of NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander firing retrorockets to slow down as it descends toward the surface of Mars. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech Image credit: None
    This illustration shows a simulated view of NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander firing retrorockets to slow down as it descends toward the surface of Mars. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander is scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet at approximately 3 p.m. EST Nov. 26, and viewers everywhere can watch coverage of the event live on NASA Television, the agency’s website and social media platforms.

    Launched on May 5, InSight marks NASA’s first Mars landing since the Curiosity rover in 2012. The landing will kick off a two-year mission in which InSight will become the first spacecraft to study Mars’ deep interior. Its data also will help scientists understand the formation of all rocky worlds, including our own.

    Read the press release from NASA.

    For more on InSight and its connection to astrobiology, visit the Astrobiology at NASA website.

    Source: [NASA]

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  1. Updates from the SETI Institute NAI Team 2018 Expedition to the Andes


    The Andes field expedition team's camp at night. Right in the center of the star trail, the two Magellanic Clouds give visions of alien worlds. Photo credit: Victor Robles, Campoalto and the SETI Institute NAI Team. Image credit: None
    The Andes field expedition team's camp at night. Right in the center of the star trail, the two Magellanic Clouds give visions of alien worlds. Photo credit: Victor Robles, Campoalto and the SETI Institute NAI Team.

    Nathalie Cabrol, Director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, led the SETI Institute NAI team on its 2018 field expedition to the Andes:

    “This year, between October 17-November 20, 2018, my team and I are returning to the Chilean High Andes,” said Nathalie. “There we will continue the development of new planetary exploration strategies, instruments, and systems, that in the near future will dramatically change the way we search for life beyond Earth. Our project is supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute and helps prepare missions such as Mars 2020 and ExoMars that will soon seek traces of ancient biosignatures on the Red Planet.”

    While the team is in Chile, Nathalie has posted updates when she is able to be in an area with an Internet connection. The photos are amazing!

    Follow along the expedition (with more updates to come):
    Field Update 1
    Field Update 2, November 7-16, 2018

    Source: [SETI Institute]

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  1. NASA’s Astrobiology Program Evolving to Meet the Future


    To better support the broad, interdisciplinary field of astrobiology – the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe – NASA is announcing a new programmatic infrastructure for the Astrobiology Program. Source: NASA Astrobiology Image credit: None
    To better support the broad, interdisciplinary field of astrobiology – the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe – NASA is announcing a new programmatic infrastructure for the Astrobiology Program. Source: NASA Astrobiology

    To better support the broad, interdisciplinary field of astrobiology – the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe – NASA is announcing a new programmatic infrastructure for the Astrobiology Program.

    By the end of 2019, the Astrobiology Program will establish several virtual collaboration structures called “research coordination networks” (RCNs) that will replace the Program’s virtual institute, the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). With this shift, NASA’s overall investment in the Astrobiology Program is not changing. Astrobiology is an important part of NASA’s portfolio and Congress formally added Astrobiology as one of NASA’s ...

    Source: [NASA Astrobiology Program]

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  1. Combined IAN / NAI Newsletter


    Image credit: None

    With the October issue of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) Newsletter, we are merging the content of the NAI Newsletter with the International Astrobiology Newsletter (IAN), https://ian.arc.nasa.gov. IAN has been hosted by the NAI for many years as a service to the international astrobiology community, a community which itself has provided the newsletter’s content. Because there existed numerous sites that report on the science of astrobiology, IAN focused on activities such as astrobiology conferences and conference sessions, workshops and educational events, career opportunities, and proposal calls. This and future issues of the NAI Newsletter will incorporate content from IAN, providing a more comprehensive update on activities in the growing field of astrobiology.

    View the full October 2018 NASA Astrobiology Institute Newletter.

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  1. A New Initiative: The European Astrobiology Institute


    Source: <a href="http://europeanastrobiology.eu/" target="_blank">http://europeanastrobiology.eu/</a> Image credit: None
    Source: http://europeanastrobiology.eu/

    Astrobiology has a long tradition in Europe, which manifested itself in the foundation of the Centro de Astrobiologia in 1999 (CAB) and the launch of the European Astrobiology Network Association (EANA) in 2001. CAB has organized, in collaboration with the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), sixteen “International Summer Schools in Astrobiology,” and EANA holds annual workshops in the field attended by astrobiologists from all over the world. Since this date, many national astrobiology societies and a regional astrobiology network (the Nordic Network of Astrobiology, which has organised a multitude of astrobiology events) in Europe, have been created. Despite recommendations of the ...

    Source: [European Astrobiology Institute]

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  1. Was Life on the Early Earth Purple?


    Habitable exoplanets where life uses the purple-pigmented compound retinal to provide metabolic energy from sunlight could provide a remote biosignature when viewed spectroscopically. Image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL–Caltech. Image credit: None
    Habitable exoplanets where life uses the purple-pigmented compound retinal to provide metabolic energy from sunlight could provide a remote biosignature when viewed spectroscopically. Image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL–Caltech.

    Early life-forms on Earth may have been able to generate metabolic energy from sunlight using a purple-pigmented molecule called retinal that possibly predates the evolution of chlorophyll and photosynthesis. If retinal has evolved on other worlds, it could create a a distinctive biosignature as it absorbs green light in the same way that vegetation on Earth absorbs red and blue light.

    Earth’s atmosphere has not always contained significant amounts of oxygen. For the first two billion years of our planet’s history, the atmosphere was rich in carbon dioxide and methane, but around 2.4 billion years ago something ...

    Source: [Astrobiology Magazine (astrobio.net)]

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  1. NASA Astrobiology Program Student Early Career Collaboration Award


    Image credit: None

    Application Deadline: December 3, 2018

    The Astrobiology Early Career Collaboration Awards offer research-related travel support for undergraduate, 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. institution. Requests are limited to $5,000.

    More information is available at: https://nai.nasa ...

    Source: [ECCA]

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  1. Geoelectrodes and Fuel Cells for Simulating Hydrothermal Vent Environments


    Left: Example of a black smoker hydrothermal vent in the Atlantic Ocean (Source: Wikimedia Commons). Right A-D: Photos showing how hydrothermal mineral samples are turned into electrode ink that can be painted onto a fuel cell electrode assembly. Image credit: None
    Left: Example of a black smoker hydrothermal vent in the Atlantic Ocean (Source: Wikimedia Commons). Right A-D: Photos showing how hydrothermal mineral samples are turned into electrode ink that can be painted onto a fuel cell electrode assembly.

    Seafloor hydrothermal vents are natural geo-electro-chemical systems that behave in some ways like fuel cells. They produce redox gradients that can help to support life with geochemical energy. Such vents are also thought to exist on other worlds such as Europa or Enceladus, and may provide habitable environments where life could emerge even in the absence of sunlight.

    A research team led by Dr. Laurie Barge a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI)’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Icy World team, in collaboration with the SETI Institute node of the NAI, has used fuel cell experimental techniques to simulate the ...

    Source: [Astrobiology (via SETI and JPL)]

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  1. AbSciCon 2019 Call for Proposals


    Image credit: None

    The Search for Life Near and Far

    Deadline Extended: November 6, 2018 11:59PM ET

    AbSciCon 2019 is the next conference in a series organized by the astrobiology community. This year’s theme is Understanding and Enabling the Search for Life on Worlds Near and Far. Future missions and observations will aim to further our understanding of diverse planetary environments while fundamental research on the origin and evolution of life on Earth drives our understanding of how life may operate elsewhere.

    Session proposal topics are encouraged to span a broad array of topics with strong interdisciplinary themes that address new ...

    Source: [AbSciCon]

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  1. Astrobiology Science Strategy: Public Briefing Webcast


    Image credit: None

    On October 10, 2018, the committee appointed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine presented recommendations for a research strategy and direction in the study of astrobiology to NASA and the scientific community.

    A recording of the livestream can be viewed at: https://livestream.com/NASEM/AstrobioScience.

    The report can be downloaded at https://www.nap.edu/astrobioscience.

    Source: [NASEM]

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