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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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  1. Origins of Life, Artificial Life, & Astrobiology (OoLALA) Research Showcase: Searching for the Laws of Life


    The Origins of Life, Artificial Life, & Astrobiology (OoLALA) Research Showcase highlights advances in research into life’s origins, distribution, and future in the universe. The lectures can be streamed live. Image credit: None
    The Origins of Life, Artificial Life, & Astrobiology (OoLALA) Research Showcase highlights advances in research into life’s origins, distribution, and future in the universe. The lectures can be streamed live.

    Coming up: Sara Walker: “Search for the Laws of Life,” Thursday, March 28, 2:30-3:30pm PST

    Currently we do not know what life is, or whether there exist universal laws – in the same sense the laws of physics and chemistry are universal – that describe life. While this may not matter so much for the study of life as it exists at present or in the past on Earth, it is critically important in the field of astrobiology, which seeks to understand life not just on Earth but anywhere in the universe. In this talk I discuss new approaches to ...

    Source: [Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) and Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute]

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  1. Carbon Monoxide Detectors Could Warn of Extraterrestrial Life


    A rocky planet orbiting Proxima Centauri might sustain liquid water (artist’s depiction). Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon (STSc) Image credit: None
    A rocky planet orbiting Proxima Centauri might sustain liquid water (artist’s depiction). Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon (STSc)

    For some distant worlds, carbon monoxide may actually be compatible with a robust microbial biosphere.

    Carbon monoxide detectors in our homes warn of a dangerous buildup of that colorless, odorless gas we normally associate with death. Astronomers, too, have generally assumed that a build-up of carbon monoxide in a planet’s atmosphere would be a sure sign of lifelessness. Now, a UC Riverside-led research team is arguing the opposite: celestial carbon monoxide detectors may actually alert us to a distant world teeming with simple life forms.

    “With the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope two years from now, astronomers ...

    Source: [UC Riverside]

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  1. AbGradCon 2019: Now Accepting Abstracts


    Image credit: None

    Application Deadline EXTENDED: April 1, 2019

    AbGradCon 2019 will be hosted by the University of Utah in Salt Lake City from July 22nd – 26th, 2019. This year’s theme will be Science Communication.

    The Proposal Writing Retreat (PWR), formerly known as the Research Focus Group (RFG), will take place at from July 19th – 22nd, 2019. Applicants for AbGradCon will be able to apply for PWR at the same time as they submit their AbGradCon application. AbGradCon has funds to support a limited number of participants, although the event can accommodate participants able to provide some or all of their ...

    Source: [AbGradCon]

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  1. NASA Selects Teams to Study Untouched Moon Samples


    11 December 1972 -- Scientist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt collects lunar rake samples at Station 1 during the first Apollo 17 extravehicular activity (EVA) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. Schmitt is the lunar module pilot. The Lunar Rake, an Apollo Lunar Geology Hand Tool, is used to collect discrete samples of rocks and rock chips ranging in size from one-half inch (1.3 cm) to one inch (2.5 cm).
Credits: Eugene A. Cernan, Apollo 17 Commander Image credit: None
    11 December 1972 -- Scientist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt collects lunar rake samples at Station 1 during the first Apollo 17 extravehicular activity (EVA) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. Schmitt is the lunar module pilot. The Lunar Rake, an Apollo Lunar Geology Hand Tool, is used to collect discrete samples of rocks and rock chips ranging in size from one-half inch (1.3 cm) to one inch (2.5 cm). Credits: Eugene A. Cernan, Apollo 17 Commander

    NASA has selected nine teams to continue the science legacy of the Apollo missions by studying pieces of the Moon that have been carefully stored and untouched for nearly 50 years. A total of $8 million has been awarded to the teams.

    “By studying these precious lunar samples for the first time, a new generation of scientists will help advance our understanding of our lunar neighbor and prepare for the next era of exploration of the Moon and beyond, “ said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC. “This exploration will bring with it new ...

    Source: [NASA]

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  1. The Case of the Over-Tilting Exoplanets


    Yale researchers have discovered a surprising link between the tilting of exoplanets and their orbit in space. The discovery may help explain a long-standing puzzle about exoplanetary orbital architectures. (Illustration: NASA/JPL-Caltech, Sarah Millholland) Image credit: None
    Yale researchers have discovered a surprising link between the tilting of exoplanets and their orbit in space. The discovery may help explain a long-standing puzzle about exoplanetary orbital architectures. (Illustration: NASA/JPL-Caltech, Sarah Millholland)

    For almost a decade, astronomers have tried to explain why so many pairs of planets outside our solar system have an odd configuration — their orbits seem to have been pushed apart by a powerful unknown mechanism. Yale researchers say they’ve found a possible answer, and it implies that the planets’ poles are majorly tilted.

    The finding could have a big impact on how researchers estimate the structure, climate, and habitability of exoplanets as they try to identify planets that are similar to Earth. The research appears in the March 4 online edition of the journal Nature Astronomy.

    The press release is available through Yale News.

    Source: [Yale News]

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  1. Clues to the Early Rise of Oxygen on Earth Found in Sedimentary Rock


    Photo of stromatolites in Shark Bay, Western Australia. Scientists have found evidence for ocean oxygenation happening at an earlier date than the Great Oxygenation Event in Mt. McRae Shale in Western Australia. Source: A. Anbar / ASU Image credit: None
    Photo of stromatolites in Shark Bay, Western Australia. Scientists have found evidence for ocean oxygenation happening at an earlier date than the Great Oxygenation Event in Mt. McRae Shale in Western Australia. Source: A. Anbar / ASU

    The Great Oxidation Event (GOE), an event marking the rise of oxygen in the early Earth’s atmosphere, is estimated to have happened between 2.5 and 2.3 billion years ago. In a study led by researchers at Arizona State University, and supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, scientists analyzing ancient shale samples found in Western Australia have discovered evidence for significant ocean oxygenation occurring before the GOE, and as far down as the sea floor. This opens up new questions about the GOE and how and why oceanic build-up of O2 happened.

    The paper, “Fully oxygenated ...

    Source: [Nature Geosciences (via ASU)]

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  1. NASA Study Reproduces Origins of Life on Ocean Floor


    An image of Saturn's moon Enceladus backlit by the Sun, taken by the Cassini mission. The false color tail shows jets of icy particles and water that spray into space from an ocean that lies deep below the moon's icy surface. Future missions could search for the ingredients for life in an ocean on an icy moon like Enceladus.Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute Image credit: None
    An image of Saturn's moon Enceladus backlit by the Sun, taken by the Cassini mission. The false color tail shows jets of icy particles and water that spray into space from an ocean that lies deep below the moon's icy surface. Future missions could search for the ingredients for life in an ocean on an icy moon like Enceladus.Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

    Scientists have reproduced in the lab how the ingredients for life could have formed deep in the ocean 4 billion years ago. The results of the new study offer clues to how life started on Earth and where else in the cosmos we might find it.

    Astrobiologist Laurie Barge and her team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are working to recognize life on other planets by studying the origins of life here on Earth. Their research focuses on how the building blocks of life form in hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.

    The full press release is available at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

    The research, “Redox and pH gradients drive amino acid synthesis in iron oxyhydroxide mineral systems,” is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Source: [NASA JPL]

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  1. NASA Roadmap to Ocean Worlds


    The NASA Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) Roadmaps to Ocean Worlds (ROW) group has published a guide with recommendations on how to develop an initiative for the research of Ocean Worlds. This includes confirmed ocean worlds Enceladus, Titan, and Europa and candidate worlds such as Triton. Development of the roadmap began in 2016.

    The overarching goal of an Ocean Worlds exploration program as defined by ROW is to “identify ocean worlds, characterize their oceans, evaluate their habitability, search for life, and ultimately understand any life we find.”

    The NASA Roadmap to Ocean Worlds is published in Astrobiology.

    Source: [Astrobiology / OPAG]

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  1. Deep Sea Microbes Hold Clues to Early Life


    Study author Stephanie Carr works with a student to process deep-sea samples aboard the R/V Atlantis. A recent study found that a group of unusual microbes living below the seafloor provides clues to the evolution of life on Earth, and potentially other planets. Source: R. Kaplan / Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences Image credit: None
    Study author Stephanie Carr works with a student to process deep-sea samples aboard the R/V Atlantis. A recent study found that a group of unusual microbes living below the seafloor provides clues to the evolution of life on Earth, and potentially other planets. Source: R. Kaplan / Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

    A new study conducted by a team of researchers from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, reveals how a group of deep-sea microbes, Hydrothermarchaeota, could provide clues to the evolution of life on Earth. Instead of cultivating the Hydrothermarchaeota cells in the lab, the researchers were able to use novel genetic sequencing methods (genomics) to learn more about how they evolved strategies to survive life in an extreme environment.

    The paper, “Carboxydotrophy potential of uncultivated Hydrothermarchaeota from the ...

    Source: [ISME Journal (via Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences)]

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  1. Non-Biological Formation of Tubules in Subsurface Volcanic Glass


    Image of basalt glass shards before being put through an experiment to test whether microtubules will form after exposure to seawater and whether the glass will be altered by fluid-rock interactions. Source: T. McCollom / C. Donaldson / Astrobiology. Image credit: None
    Image of basalt glass shards before being put through an experiment to test whether microtubules will form after exposure to seawater and whether the glass will be altered by fluid-rock interactions. Source: T. McCollom / C. Donaldson / Astrobiology.

    A connection between microbial activity and the appearance of microtubules in basalt glass has been proposed in the past​, but direct evidence for biological processes being in their formation is still lacking and non-biological origins are possible. Thomas McCollom and Christopher Donaldson, supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute team based at the University of Colorado, have conducted an experiment simulating a process where subsurface glass would be exposed to seawater and altered by fluid-rocks interaction, a process that might also lead to the formation of microtubules. Their results did not produce evidence for non-biological tubule formation, but did ...

    Source: [Astrobiology]

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  1. Scientists Discover DNA "Damage-Up" Proteins


    Taking on a new approach to understanding the connections between cellular growth and cancer, a collaborative research group led by researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine have identified proteins in the bacteria E. Coli that, when overproduced, can cause DNA mutation and damage to E. coli cells. These “damage-up” proteins (or DDPs) are a wide and varied network of proteins with a stronger link to cancer than other observed sets of proteins. The researchers have also found 284 DDP relatives among human proteins.

    The paper, “Bacteria-to-Human Protein Networks Reveal Origins of Endogenous DNA Damage” is published in Cell ...

    Source: [Cell (via UIUC)]

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