NAI

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  1. AbSciCon 2019 Streaming Live


    Image credit: None

    AbSciCon 2019 will be webcast live from Seattle, WA, from June 24th to June 28th. Throughout the week there will be two concurrent streams that you can watch. These include all plenary sessions in the Grand Ballroom, and all sessions in the Regency EFG and Grand IJ rooms.

    You can watch both streams on the official AbSciCon 2019 homepage, or the NASA Astrobiology Facebook page.

    Please check the official AbSciCon 2019 program or download the mobile app to find sessions in the above rooms that will be webcast.

    Want to be social? Follow along on Twitter for updates using #AbSciCon2019.

    Source: [AbSciCon]

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  1. Curiosity Detects Unusually High Methane Levels


    Image taken by the left Navcam on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on June 18, 2019, the 2,440th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. It shows part of "Teal Ridge," which the rover has been studying within a region called the "clay-bearing unit."Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech Image credit: None
    Image taken by the left Navcam on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on June 18, 2019, the 2,440th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. It shows part of "Teal Ridge," which the rover has been studying within a region called the "clay-bearing unit."Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    This week, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover found a surprising result: the largest amount of methane ever measured during the mission — about 21 parts per billion units by volume (ppbv). One ppbv means that if you take a volume of air on Mars, one billionth of the volume of air is methane.

    The finding came from the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) tunable laser spectrometer. It’s exciting because microbial life is an important source of methane on Earth, but methane can also be created through interactions between rocks and water.

    Curiosity doesn’t have instruments that can definitively say what ...

    Source: [NASA]

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  1. The NASA Astrobiology Institute at AbSciCon 2019


    Image credit: None

    The first Astrobiology Workshop was held at Ames Research Center (Moffett Field, CA) on September 9-11, 1996. It was by all accounts a resounding success, bringing together life scientists and space scientists for a truly interdisciplinary sharing of ideas related to life in the universe. Soon afterward, NASA’s vision for its new Astrobiology Institute (the NAI) was celebrated at the Institute’s first meeting Nov. 5-7, 1998 also at NASA Ames Research Center. Dr. Edward Weiler, Acting Associate Administrator for the NASA Office of Space Science, Scott Hubbard, interim manager of the NASA Astrobiology Institute and a host of prominent ...

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  1. New Study Dramatically Narrows the Search for Advanced Life in the Universe


    Three planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1 fall within that star’s habitable zone. Credit: R. Hurt/ NASA/JPL-Caltech/ Image credit: None
    Three planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1 fall within that star’s habitable zone. Credit: R. Hurt/ NASA/JPL-Caltech/

    Toxic gases limit the types of life we could find on habitable worlds.

    RIVERSIDE, CA – Scientists may need to rethink their estimates for how many planets outside our solar system could host a rich diversity of life.

    In a new study, a UC Riverside–led team discovered that a buildup of toxic gases in the atmospheres of most planets makes them unfit for complex life as we know it.

    Traditionally, much of the search for extraterrestrial life has focused on what scientists call the “habitable zone,” defined as the range of distances from a star warm enough that liquid ...

    Source: [UC Riverside]

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  1. Aomawa Shields on the Importance of Women in STEM


    Aomawa Shields. Credit: NASA Image credit: None
    Aomawa Shields. Credit: NASA

    A recent article in Teen Vogue urges us to celebrate the Apollo 11 Moon landing anniversary through the lens of the contributions of women to that success, and to STEM in general.

    The article features 12 female STEM advocates from different fields, each with her own perspective and approach to helping young girls get into, and climb the ladder of success, in STEM.

    One of those mentioned is Aomawa Shields, astrobiologist and founder of Rising Stargirls.

    Shields is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California Irvine. She is a member of the NAI CAN 4 ...

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  1. ROSES-19 Amendment 8: Interdisciplinary Consortia for Astrobiology Research (ICAR)


    Image credit: NSPIRES Image credit: None
    Image credit: NSPIRES

    ROSES-19 Amendment 8: This amendment releases a new TBD program element in C.23 Interdisciplinary Consortia for Astrobiology Research

    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. It is anticipated that research areas in this cycle will include: prebiotic chemistry and early Earth environments, early life and increasing complexity, and the habitability and biosignatures on exoplanets. PIs selected as a result of proposals to this program element will become members ...

    Source: [NSPIRES]

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  1. How Salts on the Surface Could Aid in Modeling Europa's Ocean


    Europa
Image credit: NASA Image credit: None
    Europa Image credit: NASA

    Excerpted from Astrobiology Web:

    Europa is one of Jupiter’s 79 moons, and one of the largest moons in the Solar System. Inside Europa, beneath sheets of ice, liquid water rests on top of a rocky core, similar to Earth, and the chemical interaction between the water and the rock could make Europa one of the best known candidates for other life in our Solar System.

    The global ocean believed to exist beneath Europa’s thick ice shell is often cited as one of the most likely places in the solar system to find evidence of extraterrestrial habitable environments or even extant ...

    Source: [Astrobiology Web]

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  1. The Habitability of Titan and its Ocean


    Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, hides a subsurface ocean that potentially could support life.
Image credit: NASA/JPL–Caltech/Space Science Institute. Image credit: None
    Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, hides a subsurface ocean that potentially could support life. Image credit: NASA/JPL–Caltech/Space Science Institute.

    Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is a hotbed of organic molecules, harboring a soup of complex hydrocarbons similar to that thought to have existed over four billion years ago on the primordial Earth. Titan’s surface, however, is in a deep freeze at –179 degrees Celsius (–290 degrees Fahrenheit, or 94 kelvin). Life as we know it cannot exist on the moon’s frigid surface.

    Deep underground, however, is a different matter. Gravity measurements made during fly-bys by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft revealed that Titan contains an ocean beneath its ice shell, and within this ocean, conditions are potentially suitable ...

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  1. NASA Choctaw & Chickasaw Nation STEM Camps


    Drs. Christopher Materese and Gustavo Cruz-Diaz pose with Chickasaw students at the Chickasaw Nation Aviation and Space Academy (CNASA). NASA Ames NAI team participation in the STEM camp is provided through funding from NASA’s Astrobiology Institute CAN 7 grants program.
Image credit: ARC NAI CAN7 Team Image credit: None
    Drs. Christopher Materese and Gustavo Cruz-Diaz pose with Chickasaw students at the Chickasaw Nation Aviation and Space Academy (CNASA). NASA Ames NAI team participation in the STEM camp is provided through funding from NASA’s Astrobiology Institute CAN 7 grants program. Image credit: ARC NAI CAN7 Team

    In 2018, Drs. Gustavo Cruz-Diaz and Christopher Materese of the NAI Ames CAN 7 Team participated in the Chickasaw Nation Aviation and Space Academy (CNASA) held in Ada, Oklahoma. The Chickasaw Nation has been conducting this week-long camp over the past four summers, in order to encourage their Native American youth to consider careers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.

    Their presentation included hands-on science demonstrations, teaching them about molecular properties, chromatography, spectroscopy, refractive properties of light, and electromagnetism. The students were very interested in the presentation, in particular, those related to the search for life on ...

    Source: [ARC NAI CAN7 Team]

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  1. Evolution of Multicellularity in Response to Predation


    Image credit: Jacob Boswell Image credit: None
    Image credit: Jacob Boswell

    The transition from unicellular to multicellular life was one of a few major events in the history of life that created new opportunities for more complex biological systems to evolve. Predation is hypothesized as one selective pressure that may have driven the evolution of multicellularity, as most predators can only consume prey within a narrow range of sizes.

    A team of scientist from University of Montana and Georgia Institute of Technology show that de novo origins of simple multicellularity can evolve in response to predation. They subjected outcrossed populations of the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii to selection by the ...

    Source: [Scientific Reports]

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  1. Redox and pH gradients drive amino acid synthesis in iron oxyhydroxide mineral systems


    Image credit: L. Barge / NASA JPL Image credit: None
    Image credit: L. Barge / NASA JPL

    Researchers from the NAI JPL Icy Worlds team report that gradients of redox and pH in iron minerals can drive the formation of prebiotic organic molecules.

    The early Earth had no atmospheric O2 – which resulted in an ocean where iron could remain dissolved in the ocean and precipitate as highly reactive minerals. These iron hydroxides in seafloor sediments and hydrothermal chimneys range from more oxidized (red rust) to more reduced (green rust) – each having different ability to catalyze organic prebiotic reactions, and form amino acids.

    Amino acids only form when the mineral contains both oxidized and reduced iron, and ...

    Source: [PNAS]

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  1. A Researcher’s Hunt for Extraterrestrial Intelligence


    Dr Nathalie Cabrol. Illustration: Mark Weaver Image credit: Mark Weaver
    Dr Nathalie Cabrol. Illustration: Mark Weaver

    Excerpted from the story by Adam Mann:

    Our first encounter with extraterrestrial life won’t be with little green men—it’ll likely be with little green microbes, says astrobiologist Nathalie Cabrol.

    Dr. Cabrol is at the forefront of the hunt for life off Earth. She works at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, Institute, a nonprofit based in Mountain View, Calif. SETI scientists have worked with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation and universities to develop instruments for probes to Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto.

    Dr. Cabrol spoke with The Future of Everything about ...

    Source: [The Wall Streer Journal]

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  1. New NASA Documentary Series: Astrobiology in the Field!


    The first episode, premiering April 4th, follows the Field Exploration and Life Detection Sampling for Planetary and Astrobiology Research (FELDSPAR) scientific expedition team as they travel to Iceland.

    Read the full story by Mike Toillion at the Astrobiology at NASA website.

    Astrobiology in the Field, Episode 1: Iceland Trailer

    Source: [Astrobiology at NASA]

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  1. A Unique Concentration of Postdoctoral Talent


    NPP fellows at Georgia Tech. Top row, left to right: Peter Conlin, Moran Frenkel-Pinter, Andrew Mullen. Bottom row, left to right: Micah Schaible, Nicholas Speller, Nadia Szeinbaum. More information about each postdoc and their research focus is available at the <a href="https://cos.gatech.edu/unique-concentration-postdoctoral-talent" target="_blank">Georgia Tech website</a>. Image credit: None
    NPP fellows at Georgia Tech. Top row, left to right: Peter Conlin, Moran Frenkel-Pinter, Andrew Mullen. Bottom row, left to right: Micah Schaible, Nicholas Speller, Nadia Szeinbaum. More information about each postdoc and their research focus is available at the Georgia Tech website.

    Excerpted from Georgia Tech:

    Among the most coveted postdoctoral appointments are those from the NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP). These fellowships offer early-career researchers “the opportunity to share in NASA’s mission, to reach for new heights, and to reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind,” NPP says.

    The Georgia Institute of Technology College of Sciences is the proud host of six NPP fellows advancing NASA’s mission in astrobiology and solar system exploration. The concentration of talent testifies to Georgia Tech’s vibrant astrobiology and space science research communities.

    Peter Conlin
    Ph.D ...

    Source: [Georgia Tech]

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  1. Yellowstone Hot Spring Supports a Hyperdiverse Microbial Community


    Dan Coleman, assistant research professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Montana State University, takes samples of microbial cultures. His recent study examines the relationship between microbial diversity and the chemical conditions found in a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. Image source: MSU / Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez Image credit: None
    Dan Coleman, assistant research professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Montana State University, takes samples of microbial cultures. His recent study examines the relationship between microbial diversity and the chemical conditions found in a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. Image source: MSU / Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez

    Scientist Dan Coleman and his team at Montana State University, supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute team based at the University of Colorado Boulder, have found an impressive abundance of microbial diversity in a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. This hot spring, Smoke Jumper 3 (SJ3), exhibits extreme chemical disequilibrium due to a mixing of reduced volcanic gases with oxidized surface water.

    The research, published in Nature Communications, digs into how and why the fluid mixing allows SJ3 to generate and support a more diverse range of microbial life than other hot springs. The discovery could help ...

    Source: [Nature Communications (via MSU)]

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