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  1. Combined IAN / NAI Newsletter


    Image credit: None

    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.

    View the full October 2018 NASA Astrobiology Institute Newletter.

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  1. A New Initiative: The European Astrobiology Institute


    Source: <a href="http://europeanastrobiology.eu/" target="_blank">http://europeanastrobiology.eu/</a> Image credit: None
    Source: http://europeanastrobiology.eu/

    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]

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  1. Was Life on the Early Earth Purple?


    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. Image credit: None
    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)]

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  1. NASA Astrobiology Program Student Early Career Collaboration Award


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    Application Deadline: December 3, 2018

    The Astrobiology Early Career Collaboration Awards offer research-related travel support for undergraduate, graduate students, postdocs, and junior scientists. Applicants are encouraged to use these resources to circulate among two or more laboratories supported by the NASA Astrobiology Program (Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology, the NAI, Planetary Science and Technology Through Analog Research, MatiSSE, PICASSO and the Habitable Worlds), however any travel that is critical for the applicant’s research will be considered. Travelers must be formally affiliated with a U.S. institution. Requests are limited to $5,000.

    More information is available at: https://nai.nasa ...

    Source: [ECCA]

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  1. Geoelectrodes and Fuel Cells for Simulating Hydrothermal Vent Environments


    Left: Example of a black smoker hydrothermal vent in the Atlantic Ocean (Source: Wikimedia Commons). Right A-D: Photos showing how hydrothermal mineral samples are turned into electrode ink that can be painted onto a fuel cell electrode assembly. Image credit: None
    Left: Example of a black smoker hydrothermal vent in the Atlantic Ocean (Source: Wikimedia Commons). Right A-D: Photos showing how hydrothermal mineral samples are turned into electrode ink that can be painted onto a fuel cell electrode assembly.

    Seafloor hydrothermal vents are natural geo-electro-chemical systems that behave in some ways like fuel cells. They produce redox gradients that can help to support life with geochemical energy. Such vents are also thought to exist on other worlds such as Europa or Enceladus, and may provide habitable environments where life could emerge even in the absence of sunlight.

    A research team led by Dr. Laurie Barge a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI)’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Icy World team, in collaboration with the SETI Institute node of the NAI, has used fuel cell experimental techniques to simulate the ...

    Source: [Astrobiology (via SETI and JPL)]

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  1. AbSciCon 2019 Call for Proposals


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    The Search for Life Near and Far

    Deadline Extended: November 6, 2018 11:59PM ET

    AbSciCon 2019 is the next conference in a series organized by the astrobiology community. This year’s theme is Understanding and Enabling the Search for Life on Worlds Near and Far. Future missions and observations will aim to further our understanding of diverse planetary environments while fundamental research on the origin and evolution of life on Earth drives our understanding of how life may operate elsewhere.

    Session proposal topics are encouraged to span a broad array of topics with strong interdisciplinary themes that address new ...

    Source: [AbSciCon]

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  1. Astrobiology Science Strategy: Public Briefing Webcast


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    On October 10, 2018, the committee appointed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine presented recommendations for a research strategy and direction in the study of astrobiology to NASA and the scientific community.

    A recording of the livestream can be viewed at: https://livestream.com/NASEM/AstrobioScience.

    The report can be downloaded at https://www.nap.edu/astrobioscience.

    Source: [NASEM]

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  1. Aomawa Shields' Unconventional Journey to Astrobiology


    A video clip from Nova features astrobiologist Aomawa Shields sharing the unique path that led to her career.

    Source: [NOVA/PBS]

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  1. Laughing Gas Could Have Helped Warm Early Earth


    Left: Dr. Jennifer Glass holds a piece of stromatolitic ironstone. Research conducted in her lab at Georgia Tech points to the way in which nitrous oxide may have helped warm early Earth. Photo credit: Georgia Tech / A. Carter. Right: Banded iron formations in Karijini National Park, Australia. These sediments, once ancient seafloor, are red because iron rusted out of solution as oxygen built up in the water. The same dissolved iron facilitated production of nitrous oxide. Photo credit: Georgia Tech / J. Glass Image credit: None
    Left: Dr. Jennifer Glass holds a piece of stromatolitic ironstone. Research conducted in her lab at Georgia Tech points to the way in which nitrous oxide may have helped warm early Earth. Photo credit: Georgia Tech / A. Carter. Right: Banded iron formations in Karijini National Park, Australia. These sediments, once ancient seafloor, are red because iron rusted out of solution as oxygen built up in the water. The same dissolved iron facilitated production of nitrous oxide. Photo credit: Georgia Tech / J. Glass

    Carbon dioxide and methane get partial credit for keeping the early Earth ice-free, but established research suggests that those gases were not always sufficiently abundant to warm the globe on their own. A new view on ocean chemistry during Earth’s Proterozoic Eon, about 2.5-0.5 billion years ago, point to a possible way that nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, could have filled the “greenhouse gap.” Results published by scientists at Georgia Tech who are members of the Alternative Earths team, the NASA Astrobiology Institute team based at the University of California, Riverside, demonstrate a potential mechanism ...

    Source: [Geobiology (via UC Riverside and Georgia Tech)]

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  1. Reassessing Exoplanet Meteorology from the Thermal Phase Variations


    A sample of a thermal map of an exoplanet (left) and the corresponding position on an orbital diagram (right). Source: A.D.Adams/NASA Ames Research Center. Image credit: None
    A sample of a thermal map of an exoplanet (left) and the corresponding position on an orbital diagram (right). Source: A.D.Adams/NASA Ames Research Center.

    Members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute based at NASA Ames Research Center team have published a paper describing a thermal model applied to light curves of planet-bearing stars. The model accurately reproduces much of the large-scale data of existing full-orbit photometry captured by the Spitzer Space Telescope, including the timescale of heating/cooling, the time positions of minimum and maximum flux, and depths of transits and secondary eclipses.

    “Reassessing Exoplanet Light Curves with a Thermal Model” is published in the Astronomical Journal.

    Source: [The Astronomical Journal (via NASA Ames Research Center)]

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  1. Astrobiology on Netflix


    NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) Georgia Tech team postdoctoral fellow Kennda Lynch and several astrobiologists are featured in the Netflix series Explained episode 9, “Extraterrestrial Life,” which digs into the probabilities of finding life in the universe. The episode was released on July 4, 2018.

    A preview with clips of interviews was tweeted by Vox.


    Image source: Vox/Netflix

    Source: [Netflix]

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  1. The Momentous Transition to Multicellular Life is Not So Hard Afterall


    An article in Science describes the research of evolutionary biologists, including Matt Herron and Will Ratcliff, members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Georgia Tech team, in examining the mechanisms that enabled the transition from single cells to multicellular life. Across a variety of organisms, the researchers found that a series of small genetic steps may have been responsible for the shift to multicellularity.

    The story includes this video highlighting the work happening at their lab.

    Source: [Science]

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  1. Rethinking Planetary Climate Controls


    Terry Isson and Noah Planavsky provide a new framework for global climate regulation to explain Earth's warmer past climate. Image source: NASA Image credit: None
    Terry Isson and Noah Planavsky provide a new framework for global climate regulation to explain Earth's warmer past climate. Image source: NASA

    Scientists with the NASA Astrobiology Institute team based at UC Riverside have published a new paper providing explanation for why Earth’s early climate was more stable and warmer than it is today.

    Excerpted from the story by Jim Shelton at YaleNews:

    When life first evolved more than 3.5 billion years ago, Earth’s surface environment looked very different. The sun was much weaker, but Earth remained warm enough to keep liquid water at the surface. The researchers said this suggests that much higher carbon dioxide levels would have been needed to keep early Earth warm enough. But how ...

    Source: [Nature (via UC Riverside)]

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  1. Oman Drilling Project: An Ancient Seabed Holds Secrets in the Search for Life on Other Planets


    The Oman Drilling Project is a multi-national investigation into the Samail Ophiolite, the world’s largest, best-exposed, and most-studied subaerial block of oceanic crust and upper mantle. Scientists are extracting and examining borehole samples from key locations within the ancient seabed to follow the journey of carbon from atmosphere to beneath the earth.

    The Oman Drilling Project video, produced by the Deep Carbon Observatory, provides a view of the landscape, the science, and the exciting potential discoveries that will increase our understanding of microbial ecosystems within extreme environments and the origins of life in the universe. Scientists Peter Kelemen (a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute Rock-Powered Life team) and Alexis Templeton (PI of Rock-Powered Life) provide narration.

    Source: [Deep Carbon Observatory]

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  1. Seminar: GSFC Summer Research Associate 2018 Presentations


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    Goddard Center for Astrobiology (GCA) – NASA Astrobiology Institute

    Undergraduate Research Associates in Astrobiology: End-of Term Research Presentations

    The GCA sponsors a summer program (URAA) in which talented undergraduate students conduct cutting-edge research under the direction of GCA scientist-mentors. The students present summaries of their research objectives and findings during an end-of-term session delivered both locally and over the internet to the NAI as a whole.

    The Class of 2018 will present on Thursday, August 2nd at 1-2 PM EDT in Building 34, Room W130. You are invited to attend, either locally or remotely.

    Source: [NAI Seminars and Workshop]

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