A new climate model may explain the mineralogy of Mars
Betül Kacar in her lab.
Computers are simulating the ancestral versions of the most common protein on Earth, giving scientists an unparalleled look at early life’s development of harnessing energy from the Sun and production of oxygen.
These findings could shed light on the evolution of alien life elsewhere in the Universe, researchers said. They recently detailed their findings in the online version of the journal Geobiology.
Photosynthesis, which uses energy from sunlight to create sugars and other carbon-based organic molecules from carbon dioxide gas, has played a major role in Earth’s history. Photosynthesis supports the existence of plants and other photosynthetic organisms ...
Source: [astrobio.net]August 23, 2017 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
E.coli, a common bacteria.
A common bacteria is furthering evidence that evolution is not entirely a blind process, subject to random changes in the genes, but that environmental stressors can also play a role.
A NASA-funded team is the first group to design a method demonstrating how transposons — DNA sequences that move positions within a genome — jump from place to place.
The researchers saw that the jumping rate of these transposons, aptly-named “jumping genes,” increases or decreases depending on factors in the environment, such as food supply.
“This is a new window into how environment can affect evolution rates,” said Nigel Goldenfeld, director ...
Source: [astrobio.net]August 16, 2017 / Written by: Elizabeth Howell
On August 10, CTV News spotlighted NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) scientists testing instruments and examining Mars analog rocks in Timmons, Ontario, Canada. Pablo Sobron and Adrian Brown, both scientists with the team at SETI, are featured in the news story.
The transcript is available at CTV News.
Source: [CTV News Northern Ontario]August 15, 2017 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Astrobiologists examine purple microorganisms as a possible link to life on early Earth and other planets. Image source: CNN
A story published in CNN takes a look at the color purple and how astrobiologists are considering the possible connection between purple organisms and the evolution of life on early Earth and other planets.
The Purple Earth hypothesis, first presented by microbiologist Shil Dassarma at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, suggests that ancient microbes may have relied on retinal rather than chlorophyll to harness energy from sunlight. Retinal is easier to produce in low-oxygen environments and, because it absorbs green light and reflects a combination of red and violet, makes the organism appear purple. The pigment is evident ...
Source: [CNN]August 14, 2017 / Written by: Miki Huynh
This Cassini image from 2012 shows Titan and its host planet Saturn.
NASA scientists have definitively detected the chemical acrylonitrile in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan, a place that has long intrigued scientists investigating the chemical precursors of life.
On Earth, acrylonitrile, also known as vinyl cyanide, is useful in the manufacture of plastics. Under the harsh conditions of Saturn’s largest moon, this chemical is thought to be capable of forming stable, flexible structures similar to cell membranes. Other researchers have previously suggested that acrylonitrile is an ingredient of Titan’s atmosphere, but they did not report an unambiguous detection of the chemical in the smorgasbord of organic, or ...
Source: [NASA]August 07, 2017 / Written by: NASA; Rob Garner (Editor)
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]August 05, 2017 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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]August 01, 2017 / Written by: Miki Huynh
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]July 27, 2017 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
We are pleased to announce the March 2017 selections for the NASA Astrobiology Program element of the NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP):
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”
Advisor: Tanja Bosak (NAI Massachusetts Institute of Technology team)
Topic: “Arsenic based metabolisms in the open ocean: an unexplored frontier”
Advisor: Amanda Stockton, Georgia Institute ...July 26, 2017 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
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]July 22, 2017 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
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 ...July 21, 2017 / Written by: Miki Huynh
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]July 18, 2017 / Written by: Hannah Hickey
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]July 17, 2017 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
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]July 14, 2017 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
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]July 07, 2017 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
- March 23 - Registration Deadlne for 36th Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) Meeting
- March 27 - Registration Deadline for Advances in Space Mass Spectrometry for the Search of Extraterrestrial Signs of Life
- March 28 - Abstract Submission Deadline (EXTENDED) for 3rd Ocean Worlds
- March 30 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 2018 NASA Exploration Science Forum
- March 30 - Seminar: "2018 Georgia Tech Astrobiology Colloquium"
- March 31 - Application Deadline: Planetary Science Section Leadership Opportunities
- March 31 - Application Deadline: Postdoctoral Scholar in Mars Atmospheric Structure, Dynamics, and Aerosols (Caltech)
- April 1 - Early Bird Registration Deadline for 5th European Conference on Permafrost (EUCOP 2018)
- April 1 - Application Deadline: NASA Astrobiology Early Career Collaboration Award
- April 1 - Application Deadline: Nominations for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society Prizes
- April 1 - Application Deadline: Reviewers for Planetary NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF)
- April 2 - Application Deadline for 2018 NASA Planetary Science Summer Seminar
- April 4 - Student Scholarship Application Deadline for Astrobiology Grand Tour 2018
- April 6 - Indication of Interest Deadline for Comparative Climatology of Terrestrial Planets: From Stars to Surfaces (CCTP-3)
- April 12 - Application Deadline: ROSES-18 Amendment (NNH18ZDA001N): C2. Emerging Worlds STEP-1 (Lunar Emphasis Added)
- April 14 - Application Deadline: ELSI Research Scientist Position
- April 15 - Application Deadline: NASA Astrobiology Faculty Diversity Program (formerly Minority Institute Research Support Program)
- April 16 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Cassini Science Symposium 2018
- NAI 2015 Annual Science Report