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  1. An Earth-like Atmosphere May Not Survive Proxima b’s Orbit


    This artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the solar system. Image credit: None
    This artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the solar system.

    Proxima b, an Earth-size planet right outside our solar system in the habitable zone of its star, may not be able to keep a grip on its atmosphere, leaving the surface exposed to harmful stellar radiation and reducing its potential for habitability.

    At only four light-years away, Proxima b is our closest known extra-solar neighbor. However, due to the fact that it hasn’t been seen crossing in front of its host star, the exoplanet eludes the usual method for learning about its atmosphere. Instead, scientists must rely on models to understand whether the exoplanet is habitable.

    One such computer model ...

    Source: [NASA]

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  1. The Great Oxidation Event and the Rubisco Family Tree


    Scientists trace the points in time where Rubisco branched out in diverse forms, before and after the Great Oxidation Event. Source: B. Kacar Image credit: None
    Scientists trace the points in time where Rubisco branched out in diverse forms, before and after the Great Oxidation Event. Source: B. Kacar

    Scientists with the NASA Astrobiology Institute Postdoctoral Program at Harvard University are tracing the evolution of an abundant and important enzyme that jumpstarts a separation between non-living and living.

    Rubisco (ribulose-1,5-biphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase) is the key catalyst for a reaction that converts inorganic carbon to organic carbon. In plant, algae, and certain bacteria cells, Rubisco helps to connect carbon dioxide to ribulose 1,5-biphosphate (RuBP) to create the first stage of the Calvin cycle and the production of sugar; Rubisco can also catalyze RuBP to bind with oxygen in a competing reaction.

    Betul Kacar and her team, using computational ...

    Source: [Geobiology]

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  1. Watch Talks from AbGradCon 2017


    Participants at the Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) 2017 held in Charlottesville, VA. Image credit: None
    Participants at the Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) 2017 held in Charlottesville, VA.

    The Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) 2017 was held in Charlottesville, VA and hosted by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. A four-day Proposal Writing Retreat (PWR) at the Green Bank Observatory in Green Bank, WV preceded the conference. During PWR, twenty-nine early career scientists, including four organizers, wrote, presented, and peer-reviewed nine proposals and selected three top proposals to present at AbGradCon immediately following the retreat. AbGradCon included 85 participants who engaged in talks followed by in-depth Q&A, took part in four poster sessions, and mingled over games and refreshments in the evenings.

    You can view recordings of talks from ...

    Source: [AbGradCon 2017]

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  1. 2017 NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellowship Program Selections


    Image credit: None

    We are pleased to announce the March 2017 selections for the NASA Astrobiology Program element of the NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP):

    Peter Conlin

    Advisor: Will Ratcliff, Georgia Institute of Technology (Exobiology; Evolution of Advanced Life)

    Topic: “Experimentally investigating the origin and consequences of fitness decoupling during the transition to multicellularity”

    Juan Rosas Bonilla

    Advisor: Jun Korenaga, Yale University (NAI University of California, Riverside team)

    Topic: “Early Earth Geodynamics and Continental Evolution”

    Jaclyn Saunders

    Advisor: Tanja Bosak (NAI Massachusetts Institute of Technology team)

    Topic: “Arsenic based metabolisms in the open ocean: an unexplored frontier”

    Nicholas Speller

    Advisor: Amanda Stockton, Georgia Institute ...

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  1. Astrobiology Sessions at GSA 2017


    Image credit: None

    The 2017 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting takes place on October 22-25 in Seattle, Washington. Below is a highlight of sessions co-coordinated by scientists with the Alternative Earths and Virtual Planetary Laboratory (VPL) teams of the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

    GSA is still accepting abstracts for sessions. The deadline to submit an abstract is August 1, 2017.

    T58. Oxygen and Ecosystems from the Proterozoic to the Paleozoic

    Noah J. Planavsky, Devon B. Cole, Christopher T. Reinhard

    Paleontological Research Institution; Paleontological Society; GSA Geobiology & Geomicrobiology Division

    Recently there have been sustained efforts to develop a more comprehensive understanding of coupled ...

    Source: [Geological Society of America]

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  1. A Bibliometric Analysis of Origins of Life Research


    A network map of Origins of Life-relevant subject categories extracted from published research journals. Source: A. Aydinoglu Image credit: None
    A network map of Origins of Life-relevant subject categories extracted from published research journals. Source: A. Aydinoglu

    A study by Arsev Aydinoglu and Zehra Taşkın explores the growth and degrees of collaboration and interdisciplinarity in Origin(s) of Life (OoL) research using statistical analysis of science publications. The paper, Origins of Life Research: a Bibliometric Approach, is published in Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres.

    The authors looked at a body of 126,105 unique publications and broke out a dataset of 5,647 publications tagged with the keywords Origin(s) of Life, astrobiology, exobiology, and prebiotic chemistry. From this data, they identified the most prolific authors, most cited articles, popular journals, and research trends. They ...

    Source: [Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres]

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  1. Weathering of Rocks a Poor Regulator of Global Temperatures


    A river runs through a valley in the Himalayan mountains. New results show the rate for chemical weathering of rocks is not as sensitive to global temperatures as geologists thought. Source: Pixabay (via UW) Image credit: None
    A river runs through a valley in the Himalayan mountains. New results show the rate for chemical weathering of rocks is not as sensitive to global temperatures as geologists thought. Source: Pixabay (via UW)

    A University of Washington study shows that the textbook understanding of global chemical weathering — in which rocks are dissolved, washed down rivers and eventually end up on the ocean floor to begin the process again — does not depend on Earth’s temperature in the way that geologists have believed.

    The study—published in Nature Communications and supported by the NASA Exobiology Program, the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship program—looks at a key aspect of carbon cycling, the process by which carbon atoms move between the air, rocks and the oceans. The results call into question ...

    Source: [University of Washington]

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  1. Fifth Baruch S. Blumberg/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Announced


    Lucianne Walkowicz has been selected as the fifth Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology. Image source: TED. Image credit: None
    Lucianne Walkowicz has been selected as the fifth Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology. Image source: TED.

    The fifth Baruch S. Blumberg/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology has been announced. Lucianne Walkowicz, astronomer based at the Adler Planetarium, will begin her 12-month residency with the Kluge Center on October 1, 2017.

    As Chair, Walkowicz intends to work on a project entitled “Fear of a Green Planet: Inclusive Systems of Thought for Human Exploration of Mars.” Her project will create an inclusive framework for human exploration of Mars—a vision that encompasses both cutting-edge research on Mars as a place of essential astrobiological significance and weaves in lessons from the diverse histories of exploration on Earth. In addition ...

    Source: [Library of Congress]

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  1. Emergence of Eukaryotes Traced Back to 2.31 Billion Years Ago


    David Gold with the Summons Lab looked at evidence of sterol biosynthesis and used molecular clock analysis to date the earliest appearance of eukaryotes. Image credit: MIT Image credit: None
    David Gold with the Summons Lab looked at evidence of sterol biosynthesis and used molecular clock analysis to date the earliest appearance of eukaryotes. Image credit: MIT

    David Gold, a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at MIT, with researchers at the Summons Lab has published a paper, finding biomarker evidence that suggests eukaryotic organisms were present on Earth as early as 2.31 billion years ago, around the time of the first wide-spread availability of oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere.

    The paper, “Paleoproterozoic sterol biosynthesis and the rise of oxygen,” is published in Nature.

    Gold and his team used molecular clock analysis, sifting through DNA databases tracing the evolution of genes for encoding enzymes necessary for sterol biosynthesis, and using the age of fossils ...

    Source: [Foundations of Complex Life]

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  1. Exoplanet Biosignatures Workshop Without Walls Report Now Available


    Image credit: None

    NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanet System Science and the NASA Astrobiology Institute held a series of joint Exoplanet Biosignatures Workshop Without Walls from June to July 2016, including an in-person workshop, in Seattle, WA that brought together the astrobiology, exoplanet, and mission concept communities to review, discuss, debate, and advance the science of biosignatures. A broad range of experts were engaged, merging the interdisciplinary reaches of NExSS, the NAI, NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program (ExEP), and international partners, such as the European Astrobiology Network Association (EANA) and Japan’s Earth Life Science Institute (ELSI).

    The report from the NExSS Exoplanet ...

    Source: [NExSS]

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  1. The Interplay of Continental Evolution, Plate Tectonics, and Evolution of Life


    Satellite view of the Red Lakes region in Ontario, Canada with four of the sampling areas from the UW-Madison study of Sr isotope compositions of Archaen carbonates. Image source: Google Maps Image credit: None
    Satellite view of the Red Lakes region in Ontario, Canada with four of the sampling areas from the UW-Madison study of Sr isotope compositions of Archaen carbonates. Image source: Google Maps

    As the complexity and diversity of life on Earth keeps getting pushed further back in time with more and more data from the geologic record, the issue of the role of continents in the evolution of the early biosphere has become increasingly prominent. Are emergent continents required for life’s origin? Are nutrients such as P dependent on exposure of evolved continental crust? Are the ecological niches provided by extensive continental shelves required for a diverse ecosystem?

    Scientists with the NASA Astrobiology Institute team based at the University of Wisconsin conducted a detailed study of Sr isotope compositions of Archean ...

    Source: [University of Wisconsin]

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  1. ROSES-17 Amendment 13: TESS Guest Investigator Final Text


    Image credit: None

    ROSES-17 Amendment 13 releases final text for D.11 TESS Guest Investigator – Cycle 1, which replaces in its entirety the placeholder text released with the ROSES-17 NRA in February.

    The TESS Guest Investigator (GI) Program solicits proposals for the acquisition and analysis of scientific data from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission, a NASA Explorer mission currently scheduled for launch no later than June 2018. In a 2-year, near all-sky survey, TESS will monitor the brightness of nearby, bright F, G, K, and M stars in order to photometrically search for transiting planets smaller than Neptune ...

    Source: [NSPIRES]

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  1. Early Career Astrobiologist Profile: Lupita Tovar Reaches for the Stars — and Exoplanets


    Guadalupe "Lupita" Tover is a member of the Virtual Planetary Laboratory, the NASA Astrobiology Institute team based at the University of Washington. She is among 100 students recognized by the University of Washington for their achievements. Source: UW Image credit: None
    Guadalupe "Lupita" Tover is a member of the Virtual Planetary Laboratory, the NASA Astrobiology Institute team based at the University of Washington. She is among 100 students recognized by the University of Washington for their achievements. Source: UW

    Guadalupe “Lupita” Tovar, a member of the Virtual Planetary Laboratory who will be starting a PhD program in astronomy and astrobiology at the University of Washington, was recently profiled by the U of W for her accomplishments.

    She was introduced to the field and to VPL through Pre-MAP, the university’s pre-major in astronomy program, and she has since been active in researching parameters for new generation telescopes necessary for mapping exoplanets.

    Tovar, the daughter of immigrant parents, is the first in her extended family to finish high school and go to a four-year college, and the story details ...

    Source: [University of Washington]

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  1. Astrobiology at Chicago's Field Museum


    The Emergence of Life display presented at the Field Museum in Chicago, IL on May 18-21, 2017. Image source: NAI Image credit: None
    The Emergence of Life display presented at the Field Museum in Chicago, IL on May 18-21, 2017. Image source: NAI

    On May 18-21, 2017, the NASA Astrobiology Institute team at the University of Illinois presented interactive displays and lectures about the Emergence of Life and Astrobiology in Yellowstone at Chicago’s Field Museum.

    Positioned between the Field’s iconic T. rex “Sue” and the warring bull elephants, displays explored the revolutionary NASA-supported work on molecular phylogeny pioneered by Carl Woese, the origin and evolution of life on Earth, and microbial biomarkers in hot springs. More than 30,000 museum visitors visited the displays, and 450 high school students (90% from underrepresented populations) from the Chicago Public School system were ...

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  1. Kepler & K2 Science Conference (June 19-23, 2017)


    The Kepler & K2 Science Conference takes place June 19-23, 2017. Researchers and scientists unable to attend in-person can attend remotely. Image credit: None
    The Kepler & K2 Science Conference takes place June 19-23, 2017. Researchers and scientists unable to attend in-person can attend remotely.

    Over the past 8 years, high-precision photometry from the Kepler/K2 mission has enabled breakthrough discoveries in exoplanet science, asteroseismology, eclipsing binary stars, solar-system objects, and extragalactic science. To celebrate the legacy and latest science results of Kepler/K2, NASA invites the community to the 4th Kepler & K2 Science Conference, hosted at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA on June 19-23, 2017.

    Researchers and scientists unable to attend the conference in-person can attend remotely by signing in to this Adobe Connect URL: https://ac.arc.nasa.gov/kepler/.

    The link will be live starting on Monday ...

    Source: [Kepler & K2 Science Conference IV]

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