Crowds gathered at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to witness the launch of Orion. Credit: Aaron L. Gronstal
NASA has performed a flawless first flight test of the Orion capsule. Orion is being developed to carry humans to deep space. The expanded launch capabilities of the Orion program could also enable future science missions that are even larger and more capable than previous robotic explorers, which have shaped our understanding of Mars and other bodies throughout the Solar System.
Source: [astrobio.net]December 5, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
This artist's concept illustrates a young, red dwarf star surrounded by three planets. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech
NAI astrobiologists from the Virtual Planetary Laboratory at the University of Washington, graduate student Rodrigo Luger and professor Rory Barnes, have shown that many terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of low mass (M dwarf) stars could have experienced extreme stellar heating for up to 1 billion years after planet formation. This could lead to oceanic evaporation and atmospheric oxygenation. The study has been accepted for publication in Astrobiology.
Unlike the Sun, which formed over a span of a few tens of ...December 2, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Scientists have programmed a robotic arm to poke the sample with an acupuncture needle. Credit: GA Tech
Researchers have turned to acupuncture in order to study samples from rough and uneven surfaces, such as rocks and meteorites. Using the technique, scientists have developed a robotic system that can collect samples from these non-planar surfaces.
The system uses a 3-D camera mounted on a robotic arm to map the irregular surface of an object. Then an acupuncture needle pokes and probes a tiny spot selected by the scientists. A minuscule amount of material is collected at the tip ...November 27, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Artist’s conception of water vapor plume erupting from the icy surface of Europa, a moon of Jupiter, based on data from the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA/ESA/K. Retherford/SWRI
How likely is habitability on icy worlds, and how would we search for it? This is one of the questions driving a research team led by Isik Kanik at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Kanik’s team was selected for a new grant from the NASA Astrobiology Institute for a five-year project looking at how metabolism could come about by way of chemical differences on icy worlds, and ...
An artist's rendering of a Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) molecule. Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation
Astrobiologists have shown that the formation of RNA from prebiotic reactions may not be as problematic as scientists once thought.
One hypotheses for the origin of life on Earth includes a period known as the 'RNA World.’ In this proposed scenario, ribonucleic acid (RNA) formed from non-biological reactions, and then became incorporated into life’s first cells.
The study presents a proof-of-concept system that could overcome previously sited challenges to the RNA World hypothesis, and was published in the Journal of the American ...November 21, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Current apparatus being used for freeze-up experiments. Credit: Johnson et al. 2014
Scientists have confirmed the existence of a process that causes the electrolysis of water, and which has the potential to drive the production of life in 'Snowball Earth’ scenarios and on icy satellites such as Europa and Enceladus.
The process, known as the Workman-Reynolds Effect (WRE), occurs when a dilute aqueous solution of salt rapidly freezes, causing ions in the solution to assume a negative or positive charge at the interface between ice and water.
Two images from Philae's Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer (CIVA) confirm that the lander is on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. One of the lader's feet can be seen in the foreground. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA
The European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully performed the first soft landing on a comet. The Rosetta mission delivered the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12, 2014. The first two images from the lander have now confirmed that the craft is safely positioned on the comet.
For more on the Rosetta mission, visit: http://www.esa ...November 13, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
There may be a trillion planets in our galaxy, the Milky Way, one-fifth of which may be Earth-like. Image Credit: Serge Brunier
For two days in September, a group of scientists, historians, philosophers and theologians from around the world explored how we might prepare for the inevitable discovery of life — microbial or intelligent — elsewhere in the Universe. The event was sponsored by the NASA Astrobiology Program and the Library of Congress.
If microbial life can survive in Earth’s Atacama Desert (right), one of the driest places on the planet, would it have any chance on Mars (left)? From a perspective of the availability of water for biological activity, or “water activity,” as reviewed in a new study, the answer is “yes.” Credit: NASA/JPL (left); Henry Bortman (right)
Life as we know it requires water for the complex chemistry that enables growth and reproduction. But how much water at a minimum does life need? A recent study in the journal Environmental Microbiology explains that it is not ...
Chris Reinhard and Noah Planavsky conduct research for the study. Credit: Yale University
New research could explain why it took around a billion years for animal species to flourish on Earth after oxygen levels in the atmosphere began to increase.
Animal life on Earth boomed around 800 million years ago at the end of the Proterozoic period, but scientists have long believed that there was sufficient oxygen in the atmosphere for this increase in animal diversity to occur much earlier. However, new findings published in the journal Science show that oxygen levels were only 0.1% of those we see ...October 30, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Katrina J. Edwards, March 15, 1968 - October 26, 2014
The astrobiology community deeply mourns the passing of Katrina Edwards, a geomicrobiologist and very bright light in many of our lives. Please see the blog set up by her family for more information on her life and work, and to contribute remembrances of Katrina.
Katrina Jane Edwards passed away peacefully on October 26, 2014, after a long illness. She was born March 15, 1968, in Columbus, Oh., the third of five children raised by Timothy and Sandra Edwards and big sister Laura Edwards. Katrina completed her secondary education at Columbus Alternative ...October 29, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Illustration of the mechanism and conceptual research targets for SHERLOC. SHERLOC will provide fine-scale imaging and use an ultraviolet laser to determine fine-scale mineralogy and detect organic compounds. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
How habitable was Mars in the past? Since the Curiosity rover touched down on Mars in August 2012, it has helped answer a few of these questions in the area surrounding its equatorial landing site of Gale Crater.
Mars 2020, as it’s currently called, will have improved instruments over Curiosity. The new rover is heavily based on the Curiosity design, and as with its predecessor it will ...
High in the atmosphere of Titan, large patches of two trace gases glow near the north pole, on the dusk side of the moon, and near the south pole, on the dawn side. Brighter colors indicate stronger signals from the two gases, HNC (left) and HC3N (right); red hues indicate less pronounced signals. Image Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF
New maps of Saturn’s moon Titan reveal large patches of trace gases shining brightly near the north and south poles. These regions are curiously shifted off the poles, to the east or west, so that dawn is breaking over the southern ...October 23, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Europa is one of the moons in our solar system that could host life. What about beyond the solar system? Credit: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk
With about 4,000 planet candidates from the Kepler Space Telescope data to analyze so far, astronomers are busy trying to figure out questions about habitability. Look at our own solar system, however, and there’s a big gap in the information we need. Most of the planets have moons, so surely at least some of what Kepler finds would have them as well. Tracking down these tiny worlds, however, is a challenge.
A new ...
Ariel Anbar, Principal Investigator (PI) in the Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology (Exo/Evo) element of the NASA Astrobiology Program, has been named President-Elect of the Biogeosciences Leadership at the American Geophysical Union for the 2015-2016 Term.
Anbar is a Professor in Arizona State University’s (ASU) School of Earth and Space Exploration. Earlier this year, he was also selected as the first Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor at ASU.October 17, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal