1. NAI Newsletter 2014-06-19

    June 19, 2014 Issue






    2013 NAI Annual Science Report is Online

    The 2013 Annual Science Report of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) is now online. The report details the accomplishments of the NAI members for the past year, and reflects the results of more than 600 peer-reviewed publications and numerous Education and Public Outreach projects. Also featured are new initiatives by the NAI to connect its members and the larger astrobiology community through online events, seminars, workshops and focus groups.

    The 2013 Annual Science Report can be browsed by NAI team, Astrobiology Roadmap objective, or by using the search function.

    Visit the link and see how NAI researchers are asking exciting questions in astrobiology, and working across teams and disciplines to uncover the answers!


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    AbSciCon 2015 – Save the Date

    The Astrobiology Science Conference 2015 (AbSciCon2015) is the next in a series of meetings organized by the astrobiology community. The conference will convene scientists from all over the world who are working in the multi-disciplinary field of astrobiology — the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.

    AbSciCon2015 will provide a forum for reporting new discoveries, sharing data and insights, advancing collaborative efforts and initiating new ones, planning new projects, and educating the next generation of astrobiologists. The 4.5 day conference will feature plenary sessions on current and controversial topics, topical sessions, evening programs, and public events.

    Note for travel planning:
    Peripheral events including primers, workshops, and a welcome reception will be held on Sunday, June 14. Plan to arrive Sunday morning to take advantage of these opportunities. Technical sessions will begin at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, June 15. The conference will conclude at noon on Friday, June 19, to allow for afternoon departures.

    More information, including details about the venue in Chicago, Illinois and schedule, will be available soon.

    Submit an Indication of Interest Form to receive email updates about the conference.

    Second Annual Astrobiology Symposium at the Library Of Congress

    On September 18-19, 2014, the Second Annual Astrobiology Symposium, entitled “Preparing For Discovery: A Rational Approach to the Impact of Finding Microbial, Complex, or Intelligent Life Beyond Earth” will be hosted by the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress in cooperation with the NASA Astrobiology Program. View the symposium program here

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    Recommend Reviewers for Planetary Science Division Proposals

    A website has been set up at: http://science.nasa.gov/researchers/suggested-reviewers/roses-planetary-science-proposals/ to recommend unconflicted reviewers for proposals. This was successfully piloted by the NASA Heliophysics Division and is now being extended to the NASA Planetary Science Division research programs.

    On this page, investigators identify themselves, the ROSES program to which they are applying, and their proposal submission number. One may then submit the names and email addresses of unconflicted individuals who are subject matter experts in areas covered by the proposal. There is also a box for additional comments in which one may note the names of individuals who should not be allowed to review the proposal. Rationales can also be included. This information is then forwarded to the appropriate program officer for their use in creating review panels and identifying potential external reviewers.

    There is no guarantee that input will be followed. However, such input is extremely useful for program officers as they construct review panels and identify external reviewers for programs.

    Please send any comments/suggestions on this site to: Max Bernstein max.bernstein@nasa.gov

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    Workshop on the Study of the Ice Giant Planets

    Early Registration Deadline: June 27, 2014

    The program and abstracts are now available on the workshop website The workshop is designed to review the current state of knowledge of the ice giant atmospheres, satellites, rings, magnetospheres, and interiors, identifying science priorities, and providing traceability to future missions. Topical discussions will be broad, with an eye toward big-picture questions, including exoplanet science and the need for supporting observations, laboratory work, and modeling. The expected outcomes of this workshop include raising awareness on the importance of ice giant planet system science and prioritizing the discipline-specific science goals. We envision the results of this workshop will guide future Decadal Survey, Cosmic Vision, and other mission studies.

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    SOFIA Cycle 3 Call for Proposals

    The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is pleased to invite proposals for Cycle 3 observations, which will take place in the time period March 1, 2015 to January 31, 2016. The deadline for submitting proposals is July 18, 2014. Proposal selections will be announced in early October 2014. Details of the Cycle 3 Call for Proposals can be found at http://www.sofia.usra.edu/Science/proposals/cycle3/.

    SOFIA is a 2.7m telescope, with an effective, unvignetted, diameter of 2.5m, housed in a Boeing 747-SP aircraft. Observations are typically carried out at altitudes between 11.9 km (39,000 ft) and 13.7 km (45,000 ft.). These altitudes place the observatory above up to 99.8% of the obscuring atmospheric water vapor. There are six observatory instruments offered in this call, which cover the range 0.3-250 microns.

    Due to uncertainties in the NASA budget and the SOFIA project allocation for Fiscal Year 2015 and beyond, the implementation of this Call for Proposals, and subsequent observations, is contingent on the budget appropriation for the SOFIA project for that time period.

    For questions and assistance, please contact the SOFIA help desk at sofia_help@sofia.usra.ed.

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    Mission Data Release by the NASA Planetary Data System

    The NASA Planetary Data System is pleased to announce that the following datasets have been released as lien-resolved and archived:

    EPOXI mission, new data:
    HRI-IR C/Garradd (2009 P1) Raw and Calibrated Spectra
    HRI-IR C/ISON (2012 S1) Raw and Calibrated Spectra
    HRI-VIS C/Garradd (2009 P1) Raw and Calibrated Images
    MRI-VIS C/Garradd (2009 P1) Raw and Calibrated Images
    MRI-VIS C/ISON (2012 S1) Raw and Calibrated Images
    HRI-IR In-flight Lunar Calibrated Spectra
    HRI-IR EPOCh Mars Calibrated Spectra

    EPOXI mission, recalibrated data:
    103P/Hartley 2 Calibrated Spectra v3.0
    HRI-IR EPOCh Earth Calibrated Spectra v2.0

    Deep Impact mission, recalibrated data:
    HRI-IR 9P/Tempel 1 Encounter Reduced Spectra v3.0
    HRI-VIS 9P/Tempel 1 Encounter Calibrated Images v3.0
    MRI-VIS 9P/Tempel 1 Encounter Reduced Images v3.0
    ITS-VIS 9P/Tempel 1 Encounter Reduced Images v3.0

    Comet 9P/Tempel 1 groundbased observations (Deep Impact mission support):
    KPNO 2.1m 9P/Tempel 1 Images from February to June 2005
    Kitt Peak Mayall 4m MOSAIC Images of 9P/Tempel 1 from 2005 around DI Encounter

    The data can be accessed through the PDS Small Bodies Node. To see and download the data as well as mission and instrument information, go to: http://pdssbn.astro.umd.edu/

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    New Approaches to Lunar Ice Detection and Mapping

    The final report has been released for the study, “New Approaches to Lunar Ice Detection and Mapping”, from the Keck Institute for Space Studies:
    http://kiss.caltech.edu/study/lunar-ice/KISS_lunar_report.pdf (36 Mb PDF)

    This study, which began in July 2013, was motivated by recent advances in two areas: 1) remote sensing data and models provide compelling (though sometimes conflicting) evidence for the presence of concentrated volatiles on the Moon, and 2) small, low-cost spacecraft have emerged as a potentially viable means of planetary exploration and science. The study organizers therefore sought to identify key measurements for lunar ice detection and mapping that could be accomplished through innovative, low-cost mission concepts.

    The report summarizes the current state of knowledge about lunar volatiles, and identifies future measurement approaches that could clarify their abundance, composition, and distribution. The mission concepts presented are a small subset of those considered in the study, and are those found most compelling and/or technically mature. More information on this study can be found here: http://kiss.caltech.edu/study/lunar-ice/index.html

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    ROSES-14 Amendment 24: C.7 PDART

    The Planetary Data Archiving, Restoration, and Tools (PDART) Program solicits proposals to generate higher-order data products, archive and restore data sets or products, create or consolidate reference databases, digitize data, and develop or validate software tools.

    The objective of this program element is to increase the amount and quality of archived data and data products available for planetary science research and exploration and to produce tools that would enable or enhance future scientific investigations. Although it is expected that a small amount of data analysis or modeling may be performed to validate any generated products, this program element does not accept proposals in which the main focus is a scientific investigation.

    This amendment makes explicit (via a new version of section 1.5) that this program includes the generation of new reference information. Since the scope of this program has been expanded slightly the schedule for proposal due date has been reset: Step-1 proposals are now due July 17, 2014, and Step-2 proposals are now due September 17, 2014.

    This Amendment “Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) 2014” (NNH14ZDA001N) is posted on the NASA research opportunity homepage at http://nspires.nasaprs.com/.

    Questions concerning C.7, PDART, may be addressed to: Michael Kelley – Lead Point of Contact (202) 358-0607 michael.s.kelley@nasa.gov

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    Early Moon Baked in Earthshine

    Left: Composite image of the lunar nearside showing the presence of dark areas of maria. Right: Composite image of the lunar farside showing the absence of dark areas. Image Credit: NASA Left: Composite image of the lunar nearside showing the presence of dark areas of maria. Right: Composite image of the lunar farside showing the absence of dark areas. Image Credit: NASA

    Astrobiologists have solved a 55-year-old Moon mystery known as the Lunar Farside Highlands Problem.

    When looking at the Moon from Earth, one of the first things you notice are the large, dark areas of basalt seas known as maria. These dark spots are what give the Moon it’s familiar 'face.’ For centuries this was the only view of the Moon that humankind knew because the nearside always faces planet Earth.

    In 1959, the Soviet Luna 3 spacecraft returned the first images of the Moon’s farside. Scientists were surprised to find that very few maria existed on this side of the Moon, which permanently faces away from our planet. Nobody knew why the two sides of the Moon were so different. Now, a team of astrophysicists from Penn State may have solved the mystery.

    The Moon’s crust is thin on the nearside and thick on the farside. Both sides of the Moon were pummeled by impacts in the past, but when objects struck the nearside of the Moon they punched through the thin crust and released basaltic lava that formed the maria. On the far side, the crust was thick enough that few meteorites actually made it through.

    To help understand why the crust of the Moon is different on the nearside and farside, the scientists gathered clues from studies of extrasolar planets that orbit near their host stars. They found that the differences in crustal thickness could be a relic of the Moon’s formation circumstances.

    The Moon was likely formed when a Mars-sized object crashed into the early Earth. The massive impact created a ring of dust and debris that eventually coalesced into the Moon. The young Moon orbited close to the Earth with its nearside locked toward the planet. As it cooled, the nearside was cooked by Earthshine from the still-hot Earth. This caused differences in how the lunar atmosphere condensed on both sides of the Moon, resulting in more crust-forming material snowing down onto the farside.

    The study was published in the The Astrophysical Journal Letters, and supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the Pennsylvania State Astrobiology Research Center.

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    Vitamin B3 Might Have Been Made in Space, Delivered to Earth by Meteorites

    Karen Smith crushing meteorites with a mortar and pestle in Goddard’s Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory to prepare them for analysis. Vitamin B3 was found in all eight meteorites analyzed in the stud Karen Smith crushing meteorites with a mortar and pestle in Goddard’s Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory to prepare them for analysis. Vitamin B3 was found in all eight meteorites analyzed in the study. Image Credit: Karen Smith

    Ancient Earth might have had an extraterrestrial supply of vitamin B3 delivered by carbon-rich meteorites, according to a new analysis by NASA Astrobiology Institute-funded researchers. The result supports a theory that the origin of life may have been assisted by a supply of key molecules created in space and brought to Earth by comet and meteor impacts.

    “It is always difficult to put a value on the connection between meteorites and the origin of life; for example, earlier work has shown that vitamin B3 could have been produced non-biologically on ancient Earth, but it’s possible that an added source of vitamin B3 could have been helpful,” said Karen Smith of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa. “Vitamin B3, also called nicotinic acid or niacin, is a precursor to NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which is essential to metabolism and likely very ancient in origin.” Smith is lead author of a paper on this research, along with co-authors from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Read the rest of the article here

    For more information about the Tagish Lake meteorite, visit:

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    Lewis and Clark 2014 Selections

    The NASA Astrobiology Institute and the American Philosophical Society are pleased to announce selections for the 2014 Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology. The graduate students, postdocs, and early-career scientists listed below will engage in field studies in astrobiology, at sites from Mount Rainier to Mongolia.

    Ross Anderson, Yale University, will examine “Preservational Controls on Neoproterozoic-Cambrian (1000 MA – 485 MA) Eukaryotic Fossil Diversity Explored in the Zavkhan Terrane of Southwestern Mongolia”;

    Eric Bellefroid, Yale University, will assess the “Effects of Tectonic Change on the Marine Paleoenvironment and Biogeochemical Cycles During the Mesoproterozoic, Borden Basin, Northern Canada”;

    Jacob Cammack, University of Wisconsin-Madison, will conduct “Secondary Ion Microprobe Microanalysis of the Strelley Pool Cherts, Insight Into Fluid Sources, Alteration, and Paleoenvironmental Conditions, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia”;

    Scott Evans, University of California, Riverside, will examine the “Paleoecology of the Iconic Ediacaran Genera Dickinsonia, South Australia”;

    Breana Hashman, University of Wisconsin-Madison, will constrain “Redox Conditions and Their Potential Role in Climactic Variations of the Mesoarchean as Recorded in the South African Witwatersrand and Pongola Supergroups of the Kaapvaal Craton”;

    Molly Patterson, University of Connecticut, will study “Thrombolite Fabric Development in Hardwater, Marine, and Hypersaline Environments, Green Lake, New York; Highborn Cay, Bahamas; Lake Clifton, Australia”;

    Anna Simpson, University of Washington, will assess the “Effects of Alpine Nitrogen Deposition, Mount Rainier, Washington”;

    Eva Stueeken, University of Washington, will characterize “Nutrient Cycles in Late Precambrian Lakes, Late Mesoproterozoic Torridonian Supergroup, Scotland”;

    Lydia Tarhan, Yale University, will examine “The Silicification of Soft-Bodied Biotas: A Model for Exceptional ‘Ediacara-Style’ Preservation, Flinders Ranges, South Australia”.

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    Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Internships Autumn 2014

    Application Deadline: June 20, 2014

    The Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Internship provides promising undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to work in the area of civil space research policy in the Nation’s Capital, under the aegis of the Space Studies Board (SSB).

    Established in 1958 to serve as the focus of the interests and responsibilities in space research for the National Academies, the Board provides an independent, authoritative forum for information and advice on all aspects of space science and applications, and it serves as the focal point within the National Academies for activities on space research.

    The SSB oversees advisory studies (principally, the decadal surveys) and program assessments, facilitates international research coordination, and promotes communications on space science and science policy between the research community, the federal government, and the interested public. The SSB also serves as the U.S. National Committee for the International Council for Science (ICSU) Committee on Space Research (COSPAR).

    The Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Internships are offered twice annually. The summer program is restricted to undergraduates (defined as an individual who does not already possess a university degree by the application deadline), and the autumn program is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. Applications are currently being accepted for the autumn 2014 program.

    Additional information about the program, including the application procedure, can be found at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/SSB/ssb_052239.

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    Field Training and Research Program at Barringer Meteorite Crater, Arizona

    Application Deadline: July 11, 2014

    The LPI-JSC Center for Lunar Science and Exploration is excited to announce a student field camp opportunity coming this fall! The Field Training and Research Program at Meteor Crater is organized under the auspices of the NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI), which is designed, in part, to train a new generation of explorers for the Moon and beyond.

    The Field Training and Research Program at Meteor Crater is a week-long geology field class and research project based at Barringer Meteorite Crater, Arizona, more popularly known as Meteor Crater. The goal will be to introduce students to impact cratering processes and provide an opportunity to assist with a research project at the crater. Skills developed during the field camp should better prepare the students for their own thesis studies in impact cratered terrains, whether they be on Earth, the Moon, asteroids, Mars, or some other Solar System planetary surface.

    The field camp is designed for graduate students in geology and planetary science programs, although advanced undergraduate students will be considered if they have successfully completed a summer field geology program and have a demonstrated interest in impact cratering processes. U.S. and international students are eligible to apply.

    The field camp is offered October 4­-12, 2014, and limited to sixteen participants. Interested candidates should apply by July 11, 2014, to be considered.

    For more information, please visit http://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/mcFieldCamp/.

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    Undergraduate Poster Competition: AbGradCon2014

    Application Deadline: July 14, 2014

    Attention budding astrobiologists! Are you an undergraduate conducting research in the field of astrobiology? Do you want to get valuable feedback on how to present your research from those who have gone before you? Do you want the chance to win a prize for your troubles? Then the Undergraduate Poster Competition at the 2014 Astrobiology Graduate Conference is for you.

    The AbGradCon 2014 organizers are now accepting electronic poster submissions on your original astrobiology research to be presented as a part of this year’s AbGradCon. Submissions are due no later than July 14. Entries will be evaluated prior to the official conference by grad students and postdocs who will provide valuable feedback to participants. All entries will be posted online for public viewing. Posters from the finalists will be printed and displayed during the conference poster session to be judged by attendees. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three entries. For further details on eligibility, submission requirements, and prize amounts, visit http://www.abgradcon.org.

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    Summer Course on Exoplanets

    Application Deadline: July 15, 2014

    This course will take place in La Palma, Canary Islands, 24 September – 2 October 2014. The focus is to give participants a thorough multidisciplinary introduction into the field of exoplanets, their detection, types, characterization, and the possibility of life on exoplanets. In addition, more general planetary subjects like formation of planetary systems, habitability of planets, physical processes in planetary atmospheres will be covered. To give students some hands-on experience with detection of exoplanets using the transit method, observations of several exoplanet transits using the Nordic Optical Telescope will be carried out. The course is open to students from all countries. It is co-organised by the Nordic Network of Astrobiology and the EU COST Action “Origin and Evolution of Life on Earth and in the Universe”. For all the course information visit: http://www.nordicastrobiology.net/Exoplanets2014/General.html

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    Postdoctoral Opportunity at University of Colorado – LASP

    The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado, Boulder is seeking to immediately fill a postdoctoral research associate position to investigate the near-Mars space environment within the context of the Mars-solar wind interaction. The research will involve: (1) modeling of the physical processes at work in the Martian ionosphere and induced magnetosphere with an emphasis on atmospheric escape, and/or (2) analysis of the data returned from the NASA Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission.

    Applicants must have a Ph.D. degree in planetary and space physics or a closely related field. Previous experience with programming is desirable. Interested applicants must be dedicated, highly motivated, and have a good track record of publication. The postdoctoral position is initially for one year, and may be extended, contingent upon performance and funding availability. Applications will be considered beginning June 15, 2014 and the position will remain open until filled. For specifics about the position, contact Dr. Xiaohua Fang at xiaohua.fang@lasp.colorado.edu.

    Only online applications are accepted. Please visit the following website for the application and instructions: http://www.jobsatcu.com/postings/83112

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    Workshop for Early-Career Geoscientists on the Process of Preparing and Publishing Papers

    On October 18, from 8:30 – 11am, this workshop will be held in Vancouver, British Colombia at the GSA 2014 venue. Publishing your work is important, but how do you go about it? This workshop, led by science editors from GSA’s journals, will focus on the process of preparing your research for submission to scholarly journals. Presentations by the three editors will be followed by roundtable discussions and a question-and-answer period.

    Before You Begin: You have a big pile of data and lots of good ideas. How do you parse all that into discrete, coherent papers? Knowing how to frame and structure your work for publication is fundamental. Find out what editors and reviewers look for, such as whether the paper fits the scope of the journal to which it was submitted, and whether the stated aims of the paper match the results and interpretations reported.

    Writing and Revising: The aim of this workshop isn’t to address the writing process itself, but to focus on the bigger creative picture. How do you frame your paper to meet the journal’s aims and the reviewers’ expectations? Find out what makes a well-prepared manuscript, from an attention-getting cover letter to an introduction that serves its purpose to well-thought-out figures and tables that communicate your ideas.

    • Get advice on what to include, what to leave out, and how best to structure your manuscript.
    • Learn how to avoid frustrating your paper’s reviewers.
    • Then learn how to submit your paper online and what to expect during the review and publication process.

    Reviewing: Be a Part of the Scholarly Community: Peer review is integral to publishing, so both reviewing and being reviewed are essential parts of your role as a scientist. As an early-career author, what kind of criticism should you expect and how should you respond to critical reviews? Reviewing the work of others is also a great way to discover what works in a paper and what does not, and it teaches you the things to avoid in your own writing. Hear from the experts on what constitutes a good review and how you benefit from being a reviewer.

    Apply to Attend: Space is free but limited for this workshop. Please e-mail editing@geosociety.org for an application. We welcome applications from graduate students, early-career researchers, people getting back into research after a hiatus, post-docs, or anyone for whom this discussion is relevant.

    For more information on GSA 2014, visit: http://community.geosociety.org/gsa2014/home/

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    June 20 – Application deadline for the Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Internships Autumn 2014 http://sites.nationalacademies.org/SSB/ssb_052239

    June 27 – Notices of Intent (NOIs) are due for ROSES-14 Amendment 8: Change in due dates for C.15, PPR http://nspires.nasaprs.com/

    June 30 – Application deadline for Assistant Professor Opportunity in Low-temperature Geochemistry at Utrecht University in Denmark http://ssl1.peoplexs.com/Peoplexs22/CandidatesPortalNoLogin/ApplicationForm.cfm?PortalID=4124&VacatureID=659961

    July 11 – Application deadline for the Field Training and Research Program at Barringer Meteorite Crater, Arizona http://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/mcFieldCamp/

    July 14 – AbGradCon2014 Undergraduate Poster Competition submission deadline http://www.abgradcon.org/

    July 15 – Application deadline for summer course on exoplanets in La Palma, Canary Islands, September 24 – October 2, 2014 http://www.nordicastrobiology.net/Exoplanets2014/General.html

    July 18 – Application deadline for SOFIA Cycle 3 proposals http://www.sofia.usra.edu/Science/proposals/cycle3/

    July 25 – Abstract submission deadline for 5th Planetary Crater Consortium Meeting Aug. 6 – 8 Flagstaff, AZ, USA http://www.planetarycraterconsortium.nau.edu/PCCMeeting.htm

    July 25 – Step-1 proposals are due for ROSES-14 Amendment 2: Final text for C.14, PSTAR http://nspires.nasaprs.com/

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