Celebrating Astrobiology and the NAI on November 14, 2019
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]February 12, 2019 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
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 ...February 12, 2019 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
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]February 07, 2019 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
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)]February 05, 2019 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
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]February 01, 2019 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
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]January 31, 2019 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
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)]January 28, 2019 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
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.December 21, 2018 • Written by: NASA • Report issue
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]December 14, 2018 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
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]November 26, 2018 • Written by: NASA • Report issue
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!
Source: [SETI Institute]November 20, 2018 • Written by: SETI Institute • Report issue
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]November 01, 2018 • Written by: NASA Astrobiology • Report issue
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.October 30, 2018 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
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]October 29, 2018 • Written by: Wolf Geppert • Report issue
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)]October 25, 2018 • Written by: Keith Cooper • Report issue