A new climate model may explain the mineralogy of Mars
We once thought oceans made our planet unique, but we’re now coming to realize that ‘ocean worlds’ are all around us. Video credit: NASA
Two veteran NASA missions are providing new details about icy, ocean-bearing moons of Jupiter and Saturn, further heightening the scientific interest of these and other “ocean worlds” in our solar system and beyond. The findings are presented in papers published Thursday by researchers with NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn and Hubble Space Telescope.
In the papers, Cassini scientists announce that a form of chemical energy that life can feed on appears to exist on ...
This illustration shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015. New ocean world discoveries from Cassini and Hubble will help inform future exploration and the broader search for life beyond Earth. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Source: [NASA]April 13, 2017 / Written by: NASA
Algal bloom in Arctic pond near Tiksi viewed from a Soviet transport helicopter.
It is thought that animal life first arose during the Ediacaran Period, between 635 and 541 million years ago, but these organisms bore little resemblance to the animals we know today. That’s led some scientists to believe that they may not have been animals at all, and instead amounted to failed experiments in multi-cellular evolution.
The remains of these odd creatures, most of which have no evidence of a circulatory or digestive system, largely vanished from the rock record at the start of the Cambrian Period, 541 million years ago. Piecing together a picture of the Ediacaran environment is key ...
Source: [astrobio.net]March 29, 2017 / Written by: Amanda Doyle
The 3rd AbSciCon Meeting Mentor Program takes place Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 7:45AM-1:30PM.
We are thrilled to announce the 3rd AbSciCon Meeting Mentor Program! This is an opportunity for AbSciCon attendees to contribute to inspiring the next generation by providing a safe and guided exposure to a very important and integral part of life as a scientist—participating in a major scientific conference. We will pair you with a local high school or community college student for a 1/2-day during AbSciCon (the morning of Tuesday, April 25th). You and your mentee will do everything you would normally do – attend the plenary, converse with colleagues during coffee breaks, attend session talks, chair sessions ...
Source: [AbSciCon 2017]March 22, 2017 / Written by: Daniella Scalice
The CAN 8 preproposal conference was held March 10, 2017 at 11AM PST / 2PM EST.
A preproposal conference for NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) Cooperative Agreement Notice Cycle 8 (CAN 8) was held on March 10, 2017 to provide interested parties the opportunity to better understand the intent, scope, and selection criteria of this CAN.
For slides from the conference and more information and updates on CAN 8, visit: https://nai.nasa.gov/funding/can-8/.
Solicitation Number: NNH17ZDA003C
CAN Release Date: February 27, 2017
Step-1 Proposal Due: April 12, 2017
Step-2 Proposals Due: July 6, 2017
Source: [NASA Astrobiology Institute]March 08, 2017 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Scientists from NASA’s Goddard Center for Astrobiology observed the comet C/2014 Q2 – also called Lovejoy – and made simultaneous measurements of the output of H2O and HDO, a variant form of water. This image of Lovejoy was taken on Feb. 4, 2015 – the same day the team made their observations and just a few days after the comet passed its perihelion, or closest point to the sun. Credits: Courtesy of Damian Peach
A trip past the sun may have selectively altered the production of one form of water in a comet – an effect not seen by astronomers before, a new NASA study suggests.
Astronomers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, observed the Oort cloud comet C/2014 Q2, also called Lovejoy, when it passed near Earth in early 2015. Through NASA’s partnership in the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, the team observed the comet at infrared wavelengths a few days after Lovejoy passed its perihelion – or closest point to the sun.
The team focused ...
Source: [NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center]March 07, 2017 / Written by: Elizabeth Zubritsky
Researchers with backgrounds in chemistry, biology, cultural anthropology, geology, chemical engineering, and design aesthetics gathered at Harvard University during a two-day workshop titled “Proto-computation and Proto-life”. Attendees explored technical and philosophical approaches to assessing the conditions under which matter may ‘compute’ something about its environment, and whether such conditions offer a clue as to the origins of life in our universe.
Sophia Roosth, author of the newly released book Synthetic: How Life got Made opened the workshop with a beguilingly simple question: Is life a pattern or a substance? She presented historical cases wherein life was variously considered as form ...
Sophia Roosth, Associate Professor at Harvard University, presents her talk, “Life Is Not a Natural Kind”. Source: B. Kacar
Source: [Harvard Origins of Life Initiative]March 06, 2017 / Written by: Betül Kacar
A reconstructed image of hematite tubes from microfossils discovered in hydrothermal vent precipitates dating back to at least 3,770 million years ago. Source: M. Dodd
Researchers have determined that fossilized evidence of bacteria from ancient seafloor hydrothermal vent precipitates found in the Nuvvuagittuq belt in Quebec, Canada is at least 3.77 billion years old (or even as much as 4.28 billion years old). The minimum age of the fossils would make them the oldest indication of life on Earth so far.
Lead authors Matthew Dodd and Dominic Papineau with their team analyzed jasper rock samples, finding microfossils of filaments and tubes filled with hematite, the mineral form of ferric oxide or rust, similar to the remains of modern day microbes living around hydrothermal ...
Source: [Nature]March 03, 2017 / Written by: Miki Huynh
The Virtual Planetary Laboratory investigates the potential habitability of extrasolar planets. The research will help in predicting the habitability of discovered bodies like the Earth-size planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1. Image source: NASA
With the exciting recent discoveries of planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1 and Proxima Centauri, interest in exoplanets is on the rise, and the Virtual Planetary Laboratory (VPL), the NASA Astrobiology Institute team based at the University of Washington, is poised to help the science community better predict which exoplanets might be able to support life and serve as ideal targets for future missions.
VPL studies what factors affect habitability and what observable characteristics of a planet point to signs of life (and what might also misdirect us) using field and lab experiments and computational models. An article published at Now.space ...
Source: [Now.space]March 02, 2017 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
One of the surprises of the New Horizons mission was finding water ice mountains on Pluto, that quite possibly are floating on a subsurface ocean of liquid water.
Pluto has long been viewed as a distant, cold and mostly dead world, but the first spacecraft to pass by it last year revealed many surprises about this distant dwarf planet.
Data from the New Horizons flyby finished downloading to Earth in October, and while it will take many years for scientists to complete their inventory and model the results, early studies offer intriguing hints of its complex chemistry, perhaps even some form of pre-biological processes below Pluto’s surface. Complex layers of organic haze; water ice mountains from some unknown geologic process; possible organics on the surface; and a ...
Source: [astrobio.net]February 28, 2017 / Written by: Elizabeth Howell
The NASA Astrobiology Institute CAN 8 has been released. Step-1 Proposals are due April 12, 2017.
Solicitation Number: NNH17ZDA003C
CAN Release Date: February 27, 2017
Step-1 Proposal Due: April 12, 2017
Step-2 Proposals Due: July 6, 2017
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate has released a Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN) soliciting team-based proposals for membership in the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI).
The goal of CAN Cycle 8 is to maintain a multidisciplinary institute by selecting focused, interdisciplinary teams that complement without replicating the strengths of the continuing teams. The teams selected in Cycle 8 will replace the teams selected in Cycle 6, whose five-year Cooperative Agreements are expiring.
The CAN for Cycle ...February 27, 2017 / Written by: NASA Science Mission Directorate
The NASA Astrobiology Program is pleased to announce the selection of three new 2016 NASA Postdoctoral Fellows:
Advisor: Simone Marchi, U Colorado Boulder (Habitable Worlds)
Topic: Modeling the Origin and Evolution of Habitable Environments in Post-Impact Hydrothermal Systems Beneath Martian Craters
Advisor: David Catling, University of Washington (Habitable Worlds)
Topic: Habitability of ancient martian dunes
Advisor: Loren Williams, Georgia Institute of Technology (Exobiology: Prebiotic Evolution)
Topic: Prebiotic Self-Assembly of plausible proto-depsipeptides
Congrats to our new Fellows! More information about the NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Program is available at: http://nai.nasa.gov/funding/postdoctoral-fellowship-program/.
Source: [NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Program]February 24, 2017 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
This illustration shows the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f, one of the newly discovered planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Scientists using the Spitzer Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes have discovered that there are seven Earth-size planets in the system. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.
The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it – under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable ...
Source: [NASA]February 22, 2017 / Written by: NASA
Hydrogen in Mars’ upper atmosphere comes from water vapor in the lower atmosphere. An atmospheric water molecule can be broken apart by sunlight, releasing the two hydrogen atoms from the oxygen atom that they had been bound to. Several processes at work in Mars’ upper atmosphere may then act on the hydrogen, leading to its escape. Image source: NASA/GSFC; CU/LASP
Researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) have discovered an atmospheric escape route for hydrogen on Mars, a mechanism that may have played a significant role in the planet’s loss of liquid water.
The findings describe a process in which water molecules rise to the middle layers of the planet’s atmosphere during warmer seasons of the year and then break apart, triggering a large increase in the rate of hydrogen escape from the atmosphere to space in a span of just weeks.
The study, which appears in the journal Nature Geoscience ...
Source: [University of Colorado, Boulder]February 21, 2017 / Written by: University of Colorado, Boulder
Scientists assemble data from shale samples worldwide ranging as far back as 3 billion years old to trace the levels (and scarcity) of phosphorus in Earth's ancient oceans. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Life’s list of essential nutrients is long, but carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus are the big three. Carbon and nitrogen, both easily extracted from the atmosphere, have usually been in ample supply in the ocean over Earth’s history. Carbon dioxide readily dissolves in seawater, and that carbon is then converted to the molecules of life through photosynthesis. Nitrogen is nearly 80 percent of the air we breathe, and diverse microorganisms are able to convert nitrogen to compounds more widely useful to life.
Phosphorus is much harder to get: it must be delivered to the oceans by rivers fed through ...
Source: [UC Riverside]February 16, 2017 / Written by: Sean Nealon
Analysis of Martian meteorite NWA 7635 dates it at 2.4 billion years old. Image source: University of Houston
Scientists have confirmed the long-lived nature of volcanoes on Mars, finding meteoric evidence that a Martian volcano or volcanic system was active for over 2 billion years.
A Mars meteorite, a shergottite rock called Northwest Africa (NWA) 7635 originally discovered in Algiers in 2012, was analyzed by Tom Lapen, a geology professor at the University of Houston, with members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute team based at the University of Wisconsin. NWA 7635 is one of eleven Martian shergottites that have been discovered on Earth, sharing similar chemical composition which points to a similar location of origin and time of ...
Source: [University of Houston]February 09, 2017 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
- March 20 - Seminar: "Ask an Astrobiologist Featuring Dr. Shawn Domagal-Goldman"
- March 20 - Application Deadline: 2018 NASA Graduate Research Fellowship
- 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 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)
- NAI 2015 Annual Science Report