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
NASA scientist, Mary Beth Wilhelm, collects soil samples of preserved ancient microorganisms in the Atacama Desert.
In the above photo, NASA scientist Mary Beth Wilhelm, wearing a cleanroom suit, kneels as she collects soil samples containing microorganisms from Chile’s Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on the planet. She is investigating the preservation of ancient microorganisms on Earth, and what that might mean for future visits to Mars.
“My research shows that the molecules which made up microbes that lived long ago remain well preserved under extremely dry, Mars-like conditions in the Atacama Desert here on Earth,” said Wilhelm, a researcher at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and a ...
Source: [NASA]May 13, 2017 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
The NASA Astrobiology Institute was pleased to once again sponsor the Student Poster Competition at the Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) 2017. As with previous AbSciCon conferences, this event provided motivation, encouragement, and most of all, recognition to astrobiologists of the future.
Thank you to the 85 students and 43 judges that participated in the competition!
The first place poster, with an award of $1000, went to Jacqueline Long from the College of Marine Science, University of South Florida. Her poster was titled: Chlorophyll-f: Earth’s Unseen Production and Habitability Under Red Light.
You can read her abstract at: http://www ...May 04, 2017 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
An artist's conception of planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-sized world to be found in the habitable zone of a star that is similar to our sun.
(Inside Science) — It seems like every day that astronomers discover another possibly habitable world, like Proxima Centauri b, our closest exoplanent neighbor, and TRAPPIST-1f, one of seven recently discovered Earth-sized planets orbiting the same star. But don’t prepare for first contact just yet. It will be exceedingly complicated to figure out whether there’s actually any life or potential for it on such planets, based on new research into our own evolving world.
To a distant observer peering through a telescope, even Earth would not have shown signs of life through most of its past. Despite the fact that our ...
Source: [NBC News]May 02, 2017 / Written by: Ramin Skibba
Marcus Bray (left), a biology Ph.D. candidate, and Jennifer Glass, assistant professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute Alternative Earths team, are shown in the laboratory where tiny incubators simulated early Earth conditions. (Credit: Rob Felt, Georgia Tech)
For much of its first two billion years, Earth was a very different place: oxygen was scarce, microbial life ruled, and the sun was significantly dimmer than it is today. Yet the rock record shows that vast seas covered much of the early Earth under the faint young sun.
Scientists have long debated what kept those seas from freezing. A popular theory is that potent gases such as methane – with many times more warming power than carbon dioxide – created a thicker greenhouse atmosphere than required to keep water liquid today.
In the absence of oxygen, iron built up in ancient ...
Source: [Georgia Tech]April 18, 2017 / Written by: Georgia Tech
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
- July 20 - Application Deadline for São Paulo School of Advanced Methane Science
- July 24 - Seminar: "Ask an Astrobiologist Featuring Dr. Jennifer Glass"
- July 30 - Early Registration Deadline for Comparative Climatology of Terrestrial Planets III
- July 30 - Early Registration Deadline for Comparative Climatology of Terrestrial Planets: From Stars to Surfaces (CCTP-3)
- August 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for AGU 2018 Session P046: “The New Mars Underground”: Science and Exploration of a New Deep Frontier
- August 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for AGU 2018 Fall Meeting
- August 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for AGU 2018 Session B092: Understanding the Biogeochemistry of Nitrogen Inputs and Outputs from Molecular to Global Scales
- August 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 9th Planetary Crater Consortium Meeting
- August 1 - Registration Deadline for Experimental Analysis of the Outer Solar System Workshop
- August 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for AGU 2018 Session P044: Super-Earth Detection, Characterization and Modeling - How Habitable Are They?
- August 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for AGU 2018 Session P049: The Interiors of Jupiter and Saturn in the Era of Juno and Cassini
- August 1 - Application Deadline: AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science
- August 1 - Application Deadline: NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Opportunity at NASA Ames Astrochemistry Laboratory
- August 13 - Registration Deadline for Comparative Climatology of Terrestrial Planets III
- August 13 - Registration Deadline for Comparative Climatology of Terrestrial Planets: From Stars to Surfaces (CCTP-3)
- August 14 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Geological Society of America (GSA) 2018 Meeting
- August 15 - Application Deadline for European Planetary Science Congress 2018
- August 17 - Application Deadline: Postdoctoral Scholar Position Available in Evolutionary and Isotopic Enzymology