Cyanide, a carbon atom bound to a nitrogen atom, is thought to be crucial for the origin of life.
In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, workers prepare to lift the Mars Exploration Rover-1 (MER-B) onto a spin table during preflight processing of the spacecraft. Researchers at Cal Poly offer the first biochemical evidence explaining the reason why contamination persist after use of the cleaning facility. Image source: NASA/JPL/KSC
Dr. Rakesh Mogul, professor of biological chemistry at Cal Poly Pomona and a 2016 Minority Institute Research Support (MIRS) Program (now the Astrobiology Faculty Diversity Program) Fellow and his team have discovered a reason why, even after thorough cleaning, certain microbes from spacecrafts can still survive in the clean rooms at NASA.
Excerpted from the press release from Cal Poly Pomona:
The research team analyzed several Acinetobacter strains that were originally isolated from the Mars Odyssey and Phoenix spacecraft facilities. They found that under very nutrient-restricted conditions, most of the tested strains grew on and biodegraded the cleaning agents used ...
Source: [Astrobiology]June 25, 2018 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
Scientists develop a new molecular timeline for the production of reactive oxygen species in the evolution of life. Source: Y. J. Taverne et al. / Wiley Online Library
Complex animal life appeared in the earth’s record soon after the second major rise in atmospheric oxygen roughly 800 million years ago. The evolution of enzymatic reduction of oxygen yielded a several-fold increase in energy production by life on Earth, enabling this progression to multicellular animal life. However, higher atmospheric oxygen concentrations would also have been expected to result in increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) – derivatives of oxygen that are harmful to life and that, for humans, can accelerate aging and cardiovascular disease.
Yannick Taverne and his team, with support from Alternative Earths, the NASA Astriobiology Institute Team based at UC Riverside, have developed a molecular timeline for the production of ROS in the evolution of life. The paper is published in BioEssays.
Source: [BioEssays (via UC Riverside)]June 22, 2018 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
Potential false positive mechanisms for O2. This cartoon summarizes the atmospheric mechanisms by which O2 could form abiotically at high abundance in a planetary atmosphere (Meadows, 2017).
Researchers are studying how environmental context can help determine whether oxygen (O2) detected in extrasolar planetary observations is more likely to have a biological source. The team provide an in-depth, interdisciplinary example of O2 biosignature identification and observation, which serves as the prototype for the development of a general framework for biosignature assessment.
The article, Exoplanet Biosignatures: Understanding Oxygen as a Biosignature in the Context of Its Environment, is an open access article in the journal Astrobiology. The work was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Program and in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory ...
Source: [Astrobiology]June 18, 2018 • Written by: Julie Fletcher • Report issue
Group photo of the participants at the 2018 Astrobiology Graduate Conference that took place June 4-7, 2018 in Atlanta Georgia. Image credit: AbGradCon
The 14th Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) was successfully held from June 4-7, 2018 at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in Atlanta, Georgia, with 96 participants presenting 72 posters and 23 oral presentations Oral presentations were streamed via SAGANLive and are available at http://saganet.org/page/saganlive.
The graduate student and postdoctoral fellow attendees hailed from 49 institutions and 9 different countries (Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, United Kingdom, and United States). In addition to the scientific program, the attendees gathered for social activities each night and an educational field trip to the Georgia Aquarium the ...June 15, 2018 • Written by: AbGradCon • Report issue
Rebecca Rapf awarded with the Maggie C. Turnbull Community Service Award at AbGradCon 2018. Image source: https://turnbullaward.org/.
Rebecca Rapf, a postdoctoral scholar in physical chemistry at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is the first recipient honored with the newly created Maggie C. Turnbull Award for community service.
Rapf was selected from a group of 10 early career astrobiologists nominated by their peers based on their outstanding dedication to education, outreach, community engagement and professional service to the early career community. The award commemorates Margaret “Maggie” C. Turnbull, a pioneer in exoplanet research and the search for life in the universe and founder of the Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon), now in its 14th year of existence.
Read the full press release at the Berkeley SETI Research Center website.June 13, 2018 • Written by: Berkeley SETI Research Center • Report issue
Map showing the distribution of the Huronian Supergroup and other Paleoproterozoic successions in the Great Lakes area. The two studied drill cores (150–4, 156–1) are located ca. 10 km north of the city of Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada. Modified from the work of Rasmussen et al. (2013).
Members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute University of Wisconsin Team have reported the first in situ analysis of all four S isotopes in metasediments of the Paleoproterozoic Huronian Supergroup and examined sulfur isotope evidence for the Great Oxidation Event (GOE). The early study of Papineau et al. (2007) argued for placement of the GOE within the lower Huronian. However, this interpretation is not supported by the improved precision, analysis of 36S, and new textural interpretations of this study. Values of Δ33S are uniformly from -0.07 to 0.38‰ in the lower Huronian. The most commonly analyzed ...June 13, 2018 • Written by: Julie Fletcher • Report issue
Team members Gustavo Cruz-Diaz and Christopher Materese pose with Chickasaw students at the Chickasaw Nation Aviation and Space Academy (CNASA).
Team members Gustavo Cruz-Diaz and Christopher Materese of the NAI – NASA Ames Research Center Team, participated in the Chickasaw Nation Aeronautics and Space Academy (CNASA) held in Ada, Oklahoma on June 5, 2018. The Chickasaw Nation has been conducting this week-long camp for several years in order to encourage their Native American students to consider careers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. Drs. Materese and Cruz-Diaz talked to 22 students (8th to 12th grade) about research at NASA and made presentations that included several hands-on science demonstrations. The activities were designed to teach the students about molecular ...June 11, 2018 • Written by: Scott Sandford • Report issue
This low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called "Buckskin" on lower Mount Sharp. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.
The new findings – “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere – appear in the June 8 edition of the journal Science.
The full press release is available through NASA.
A feature story by Marc Kaufman, “Breakthrough Findings on Mars Organics and Mars Methane,” is available at Astrobiology at NASA.
An interview with Roger Summons on finding organic matter on Mars is also available at MIT News.
Source: [NASA]June 07, 2018 • Written by: NASA • Report issue
An artist’s concept of the early Earth. While still fairly inhospitable compared to today’s standards, the early Earth may have had a more moderate climate and ocean temperature and pH than had been thought. Image credit: NASA.
The conditions on the early Earth have long been a mystery, but researchers from NASA and the University of Washington have now devised a way to account for the uncertain variables of the time, in turn discovering that the conditions of early Earth may have been more moderate than previously thought.
By applying these findings to other rocky planets, the researchers, whose results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, conclude that the time-frame and likelihood of life persisting elsewhere is greater than first thought.
Read the full story at Astrobiology Magazine.
Source: [Astrobiology Magazine (astrobio.net)]June 05, 2018 • Written by: Joelle Renstrom • Report issue
The Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) 2018, taking place June 4-8, will be webcast live via Livestream to SAGANet.org, the NASA Astrobiology Facebook page, and the NASA Astrobiology Institute Seminars and Workshops page.
For more information, visit the AbGradCon website.
Source: [AbGradCon]June 04, 2018 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
The Conveners of the 2018 Astrobiology Graduate Conference and the Berkeley SETI Research Center are proud to announce the creation of a new early career community service award in honor of Maggie C. Turnbull, the founder of the Astrobiology Graduate Conference.
The call for Award Nominations are open through June 3rd, 2018.
Source: [SAGANet.org]May 31, 2018 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
Satellites monitor how ‘greenness’ changes with Earth’s seasons. Image source: NASA (via UCR)
The current approach to the search for life on exoplanets involves scanning for biological signs, such as in the chemistry of the atmosphere and the presence of molecules like O2, CO2, and CH4. However, a detected presence, or absence, of a biosignature alone may only give us a partial or inaccurate picture.
Scientists with the NASA Astrobiology Institute Alternative Earths team based at the University of California, Riverside are devising a new strategy, and they are developing the first quantitative framework for investigating dynamic biosignatures based on seasonal changes in the Earth’s atmosphere. Just as the balance of atmospheric gases on Earth shift from season to season, patterns of change in atmospheric conditions over time could also naturally occur on exoplanets.
“Atmospheric Seasonality as an Exoplanet Biosignature” is published in the The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
A press release by Sarah Nightingale is available through UCR Today. The story has been picked up by news outlets including Eureka Alert and Fox News.
Source: [University of California, Riverside]May 24, 2018 • Written by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
Southwest of the Los Angeles coast lies Santa Catalina Island, a 35-kilometer- (22-mile-) long island that runs roughly northwest to southeast, and spans 13 kilometers (8 miles) at its widest point. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory
Researchers have sequenced the genome of Hydrogenovibrio sp. strain SC-1, a microaerophilic neutrophilic iron-oxidizing bacteria. This bacteria was isolated from pyrrhotite, which was incubated in situ in marine surface sediments off of Catalina Island in southern California, USA. SC-1 is the only known iron-oxidizing bacterium in the family Piscirickettsiaceae, and can use energy from the oxidation of iron to grow. Bacteria with this ability are important to the cycling of iron in marine environments, which is an essential trace element that can limit primary productivity in surface waters. In additon, SC-1 is a member of a group of bacteria known for autotrophic thiosulfate oxidation and obligate chemolithoautotrophy.
The study, “Genome Sequence of Hydrogenovibrio sp. Strain SC-1, a Chemolithoautotrophic Sulfur and Iron Oxidizer ,” was published in the journal Genome Announcements. The work was supported in part by NASA Astrobiology through the Exobiology Program and the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI).
Source: [Astrobiology at NASA]May 22, 2018 • Written by: Aaron Gronstal • Report issue
From the cover of Astrobiology, Discovery, and Societal Impact by Steven J. Dick, the second Baruch S. Blumberg/Library of Congress Chair.
What will happen if we discover life beyond Earth, either microbial or intelligent? Steven Dick, the second Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, has just published a book on this subject based on his research at the Library of Congress.May 17, 2018 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
Artist's conception of the Mars Sample Return mission. Image source: NASA JPL
On April 26, 2018 NASA and European Space Agency signed a Statement of Intent (SOI) to jointly develop a Mars Sample Return plan to be submitted to their respective authorities by the end of 2019.
The joint statement of intent is available as a PDF athttps://mepag.jpl.nasa.gov/announcements/2018-04-26%20NASA-ESA%20SOI%20(Signed).pdf.
For more information on NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) and to view announcements, visit: https://mepag.jpl.nasa.gov/announcements.cfm?expand=hq
Source: [MEPAG]May 11, 2018 • Posted by: Miki Huynh • Report issue
- September 18 - Seminar: "Astrovirology"
- October 1 - Application Deadline: The Moore–Simons Project on the Origin of the Eukaryotic Cell
- October 7 - Early Registration Deadline for Mars Extant Life: What’s Next?
- October 15 - Proposal abstracts for SSoCIA 2020
- November 5 - Application Deadline: NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities - Fall 2020 (NSTGRO20)
- January 1 - Application Deadline: Georgia Institute of Technology - Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Program
- February 14 - Application Deadline: Interdisciplinary Consortia for Astrobiology Research - Solicitation: NNH19ZDA001N-ICAR