The colored rings signify the different sectors where geoscientists work. The wedges, in turn, represent the fields where geoscientists are employed and include different examples of occupations. Where the wedges intersect with the rings indicates that those fields are included in those sectors. Image credit: Illustrator: Kathleen Cantner. Content: Heather Houlton & Abigail Seadler
The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) developed an infographic as a part of their Preparing Our Workforce (POW) Initiative to help students entering the workforce redefine what it means to have a career in geoscience. Having a successful geoscience career is not solely about mastering the technical fields of study. Students must seamlessly integrate their interests and competencies to build a professional portfolio that bolsters their career. Recognizing the importance of emphasizing the transferability of skills across different fields is imperative to students’ employability as geoscientists.
Source: [American Geosciences Institute ]May 18, 2016 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
A new study explores how properties of organization and cognition in the human brain could be universal. Researchers focused on semantics, or ‘meaning expressed through language,’ and developed an empirical measure of how semantics might reflect cultural, historical, and environmental backgrounds. The results highlight a universal structure underlying the sampled vocabulary across different language groups and largely independent of geography or environment.
Schematic of a bipartite semantic network constructed through translation (first layer to second layer) and back-translation (second layer to third layer) for MOON and SUN in two American languages: Coast Tsimshian (red) and Lakhota (blue).
Source: [PNAS]May 16, 2016 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
In situ macro and mesostructure of Barstow Formation tufa. Image credit: Ibarra and Corsetti
The processes that govern the formation of stromatolites—structures that may represent macroscopic manifestation of microbial processes and a clear target for astrobiological investigation—occur at various scales (local versus regional), yet determining their relative importance remains a challenge, particularly for ancient deposits and/or if similar deposits are discovered elsewhere in the Solar System.
A new paper builds upon the traditional multiscale level approach of investigation (micro-, meso-, macro-, mega-) by including a lateral comparative investigational component of fine- to large-scale features to determine the relative significance of local and/or nonlocal controls on stromatolite morphology, and in the ...
Source: [Astrobiology]May 11, 2016 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
Our sun has a temperature of about 5800K. For stars cooler than our sun (M dwarfs at 3000-4000K) the habitable zone is closer in. For hotter stars (A dwarfs at 10,000K) the region is much farther out.
Researchers have provided new estimates for the inner edge of the habitable zone for synchronously rotating terrestrial planets around late-K and M-dwarf stars. Using a 3-D Earth-analog global climate model (GCM), the team has shed new light on the relationship between the rotational rates of planets and habitability around these types of stars. The results indicate that rotation rates for planets at the inner edge of the habitable zone become faster and that the inner edge is farther away from the host star than indicated in previous GCM studies.
The paper, “The inner edge of the habitable zone for synchronously ...
Source: [Earth and Planetary Astrophysics]May 09, 2016 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Blue, but deadly: the gas giant exoplanet HD 189733b, which is superhot and likely has rains of glass.
The iconic “pale blue dot” image of Earth taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft, from a distance of 3.7 billion miles in 1990. Earth is the speck halfway down the brownish streak to the right. The streaks are artifacts, caused by the scattering of sunlight in the probe’s optics.
Source: [astrobio.net]May 06, 2016 / Written by: Adam Hadhazy
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." The MAHLI camera on Curiosity's robotic arm took multiple images on Aug. 5, 2015.
A new paper presents the case for updating the current planetary protection policy applied to “special regions on Mars” based on new information about Earth organisms. Mars’ “Special Regions” are areas where exploration missions must undergo strict planetary protection measures prior to launch due to the fact that environmental conditions in the region could be conducive to the growth of microorganisms from Earth.
The study, “Planetary Protection and Mars Special Regions – A Suggestion for Updating the Definition” was published in the journal Astrobiology. The work was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) element of the NASA Astrobiology Program.
Source: [Astrobiology]May 02, 2016 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
The NASA Astrobiology Program and the NASA Astrobiology Institute are pleased to announce the selections from two funding opportunities.
The NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship Program selected two Fellows from the November 2015 opportunity:
- Barbara Lafuente Valverde
Advisor: Thomas Bristow, NASA Ames Research Center (Habitable Worlds)
Topic: Use of clay minerals as paleoenvironmental indicators of the origin of Ediacaran multicellular life in the Doushantuo Formation
- Kazumi Ozaki
Advisor: Chris Reinhard, Georgia Institute of Technology (NAI, University of California, Riverside team)
Topic: New Quantitative Approaches Toward Understanding The Life History Of An Inhabited Planet
From the April 2016 NASA Astrobiology Institute Early Career ...April 28, 2016 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
- Barbara Lafuente Valverde
Researchers think emissions from volcanos, such as the one seen here, may have led to a dramatic rise in CO2 leading to a mass extinction 200 million years ago. (Photo/NASA Earth Observatory)
Just over 200 million years ago, long before the demise of the dinosaurs, a cataclysm killed off a significant chunk of the planet’s animal life. The leading theory implicates massive volcanic eruptions, triggered when the supercontinent of Pangea was ripped apart into separate continents.
A new study co-authored by USC researchers, including Yadira Ibarra, NAI/APS Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology awardee, strengthens evidence for that theory and has wider implications for how rapid climate change can affect life on Earth. Along with lava flows, the volcanic eruptions released massive amounts of the ...
Source: [USC News]April 26, 2016 / Written by: Andrew Good
Astrobiology booth staffed by Jack Farmer and Sheri Klug both from ASU. Image Credit: Barbara Vance
Few places in the United States have night skies that are as dark and inviting as Death Valley. There are also very few places in the world where the extremes of our planet can offer a look into what may be possible in our Solar System and beyond. In conjunction with the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, scientists and the public met in Death Valley for an opportunity to learn more about our planet and solar system, and to learn how that knowledge helps plan for humans to explore beyond Earth.
There are several planetary analog research sites within ...April 25, 2016 / Written by: Barbara Vance
September 2009 artist's conception of the James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: NASA
In order to identify inhabited worlds beyond the Solar System, scientists are exploring the possibility of detecting gases that could serve as biosignatures in the atmospheres of extrasolar planets. Molecular oxygen (O2) and ozone (O3) have been suggested as the most robust individual biosignatures gases. However, it has been shown that these gases can also be produced without life through multiple abiotic mechanisms.
A new study discusses how other gases (CO and O4) in spectra from extrasolar planets could be used to discriminate between biotic and abiotic O2 and O3. The team of researchers produced ...
Source: [Earth and Planetary Astrophysics]April 19, 2016 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
NAI Interim Director, Carl Pilcher, presented an overview of astrobiology to a public audience on the Big Island of Hawaii at the invitation of the Keck Observatory. This was one of a series of talks he presented to both the public and supporters of the Observatory as part of a week-long visit in late March 2016. In his presentation Carl discussed how astrobiology embraces and integrates five interconnected areas of science to provide a perspective on life as a cosmic phenomenon.
CLICK HERE to view the presentation.April 18, 2016 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
(Top row, left to right) Titan, Earth's moon, Europa and Enceladus. (Bottom row, left to right) Callisto, Charon, Ariel and lo. Image credit: NASA
On April 13, 2016 on NPR’s Morning Edition, Rory Barnes, member of the NAI University of Washington, VPL Team, talked about looking for life on alien moons.
“Finding a new planet that orbits a distant star isn’t such a big deal anymore — astronomers have discovered around 2,000. But no one knows if any of these planets has a moon.”
CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast or to read the transcript.
Source: [NPR]April 14, 2016 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
Earth’s thin atmosphere is all that stands between life on Earth and the cold, dark void of space.
Radiative transfer (RT) calculations are used in many applications for studying interactions between the Earth and its atmosphere, including remote sensing and climate modelling. One method, known as Principal Component Analysis (PCA), has been shown to increase computational speed while maintaining the accuracy of calculations over narrow spectral bands.
A new study has extended the PCA method for RT calculations over the entire shortwave region of the spectrum. The region from 0.3 to 3 microns is divided into 33 spectral fields, and covers all major gas absorption regimes.
The study, “A fast and accurate PCA based radiative transfer model ...April 12, 2016 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Astronaut photograph (ISS011-E-10575) of Yellowstone Lake from orbit. Geothermal features such as geysers and hot springs are located in the West Thumb area. This is thought to be due to a relatively shallow, local magma source.
A new interdisciplinary study evaluates microbial populations that inhabit thermal vents in Yellowstone Lake. Yellowstone Lake is a fresh-water system straddling a caldera, and experiences significant geothermal activity. Using a metagenome sequencing approach, researchers were able to study how waters from vents affected the distribution of specific microorganisms. Samples from the vents were obtained with a remotely operated vehicle.
Microorganisms with a range of metabolisms were studied in conditions that varied by the composition, temperature, and pH range of thermal waters. Novel groups of methanogens were also identified in the study. The research shows that the thermal vents in Yellowstone ...
Source: [Frontiers in Microbiology]April 10, 2016 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
An example of a mixed biofilm under a microscope.
Microorganisms exist in nature as complex mixed communities that contain a wide range of individual species, each of which can play a different role in the community as a whole. The activity of microbial communities can have global implications for Earth’s biosphere and habitability, but the complexity of these communities has made it difficult to understand how they respond to changes in their environment.
A new study uses a combination of metagenomic, genome binning, and stimulus-induced metatranscriptomic approaches to provide insight into how a microbial biofilm responds to two environmental stimuli. Using the systematic meta-omics approach, a team of researchers ...
Source: [Nature: Scientific Reports]April 07, 2016 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
- February 20 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Planetary Mapping and Virtual Observatory
- February 22 - Application Deadline: Gulf Research Program Early-Career Research Fellowships
- February 24 - Application Deadline: 2017 NASA Education Aeronautics Scholarship and Advanced STEM Training and Research (AS&ASTAR) Fellowship
- February 28 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Accretion and Early Differentiation of the Earth and Terrestrial Planets
- February 28 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 68th International Astronautical Congress
- March 1 - Seminar: "Ask an Astrobiologist Featuring Dr. George Cooper"
- March 1 - Application Deadline: NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Program Fellowships
- March 6 - Poster Competition Application Deadline for Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) 2017
- March 8 - Early Registration Deadline for Radio Exploration of Planetary Habitability
- March 8 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Radio Exploration of Planetary Habitability
- March 15 - Application Deadline for 2017 Exoplanet Summer Program
- March 15 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Geobiology 2017
- March 15 - Application Deadline: Cycle 8 Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN 8) for the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) [To Be Released]
- March 20 - Application Deadline: Human Frontier Space Program (HFSP) Young Investigator and Program Grants
- March 24 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 6th International Symposium on Chemosynthesis-Based Ecosystems (CBE6)
- March 24 - Abstract Submission Deadline for International Conference on Mars Aeronomy 2017
- March 31 - Early Bird Registration Deadline for Robotic Telescopes Student Research and Education Conference
- March 31 - Application Deadline: Life Travel Award 2017
- NAI 2014 Annual Science Report