NAI

  1. The FameLab Online Competition Is Open!


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    Passionate about science? Love to Communicate? FameLab is for you…
    Can’t get to one of our in-person competitions? No problem!

    Announcing the FameLab: Exploring Earth and Beyond Online Competition!

    YouTube urls due: Friday, July 19th
    Winner and Wild Cards Announced: no later than Wednesday, August 2nd

    If you haven’t registered yet:
    Go to our website and register.
    You will receive a follow up email from FameLab EEB organizers confirming your registration.
    If you haven’t registered, your video will not be judged.

    Once you’re registered:
    Create your 3-minute video clip and upload it to YouTube!
    See production ...

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  1. Martian Clay Contains Compound Important to the Origin of Life


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    Electron microscope image showing the 700-million-year-old Martian clay veins containing boron.

    Researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa NASA Astrobiology Institute (UHNAI) have discovered high concentrations of boron in a Martian meteorite. When present in its oxidized form (borate), boron may have played a key role in the formation of RNA, one of the building blocks for life. The work was published on June 6 in PLOS One.

    The Antarctic Search for Meteorites team found the Martian meteorite used in this study in Antarctica during its 2009-2010 field season. The minerals it contains, as well as its chemical composition ...

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  1. The Next Step for Astrobiology’s Roadmap


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    This map shows the locations of participants in the Astrobiology Roadmapping community around the globe. Credit: www.astrobiologyfuture.org

    The Astrobiology Program has completed the first step in creating a new Astrobiology Roadmap. The next phase in outlining the future direction for astrobiology research and technology development at NASA is set to begin next week.

    Roughly every ten years, the Astrobiology Program updates NASA’s official Astrobiology Roadmap. This document provides guidance for research funded by the program in areas that encompass space, Earth and biological sciences.

    In writing the 2013 Astrobiology Roadmap, NASA’s Astrobiology Program decided to take ...

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  1. Astrobiologist Elected to the National Academy of Sciences


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    On April 30th, the National Academy of Sciences announced the election of 84 new members and 21 foreign associates from 14 countries in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Dr. Katherine Freeman of the Penn State Astrobiology Research Center was among those elected! She is honored for her work using stable isotopes in fossil molecules to learn about the origins of life on Earth and other planets.

    This announcement came in the same week that Kate was recognized at Penn State with the Wilson Award for Excellence in Research. Please join NAI in congratulating Kate Freeman!

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  1. Planktonic Autotrophs in Earth’s Early Oceans


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    Clusters of spheroidal microfossils of the FQ in transmitted optical light (A) and in reflected light (B). Credit: CH House et al. (2013)

    Astrobiologists supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute have found evidence that structures found in ~3 billion year old (Ga) quartzite may be biological in origin. The potential microfossils were identified in Farrel Quartzite from Australia, but determining whether or not they are biogenic in origin has been difficult.

    The team performed isotopic analysis of the structures, and their results indicate that the spindle-like structures were formed by planktonic microorganisms. The study also suggests that the ...

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  1. Eyeball Earths?


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    Artist’s concept of a planet where one side always faces its star, with the dark side covered in ice. Image Credit: Beau/TheConsortium

    Because they are often tidally locked to their parent star – producing permanent day and night sides – some alien worlds orbiting red dwarf stars might resemble giant eyeballs. The night side would be a frozen, white shell, and the day side would host a giant ocean of liquid water constantly basking in the warmth of its star. Researchers, supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, are now proposing experiments to simulate these distant planets and see ...

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  1. RNA’s Hidden Abilities on Ancient Earth


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    Chiaolong Hsiao (left) and professor Loren Williams examine on a light box a polyacrylamide gel surrounded by an iron solution to determine whether RNA is stable in the iron solution. Georgia Tech Photo: Gary Meek

    Astrobiologists supported in part by the NAI have made an important discovery about the activity of Ribonucleic acid (RNA) on the early Earth. RNA acts as a catalyst for many cellular reactions, and is essential for life as we know it. The functionality of RNA, which played a central role in ancient biology, depends on how it bends, folds and assembles with cations like magnesium ...

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  1. Roadmap Astrobiology’s Future


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    The Astrobiology Roadmap charts the future directions of astrobiology research and, by joining our community, you can participate in creating it! Credit: NASA

    It’s time to chart the future directions of astrobiology research and you can participate. NASA is hosting a series of on-line hangouts and discussions focusing on broad themes in astrobiology: Planetary Conditions for Life, Prebiotic Evolution, Early Evolution of Life and the Biosphere, Evolution of Advanced Life, and Astrobiology for Solar Systems Exploration. The online conversations will then be used as the starting point for an in-person/virtual meeting to draft an outline for the Roadmap ...

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  1. TIME Magazine Features Nader Haghighipour


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    Nader Haghighipour at the W.M. Keck Observatory. Credit: TIME Video

    Recently, TIME Magazine featured astrobiologist Nader Haghighipour an online interview at TIME Video. Haghighipour, is an associate astronomer at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy. In the video, he talks about life as an astronomer at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, and the dedication it takes to hunt for habitable, extrasolar worlds.

    Identifying extrasolar planets at Keck is not a simple case of looking through the lens and spotting distant worlds. The process involves a large crew of people who are based at both the ...

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  1. Astrobiologist Receives Faculty Excellence Award


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    Please join us in congratulating NAI Principal Investigator Ariel Anbar of Arizona State University who was recently named a 2013 ASU President’s Professor. He is one of three ASU faculty receiving the honor this year.

    President’s Professorships honor faculty members who have made substantial contributions to undergraduate education at ASU. The awardees are chosen based on a variety of criteria: mastery of subject matter, enthusiasm and innovation in the learning and teaching process, ability to engage students both within and outside the classroom, ability to inspire independent and original thinking in students and to stimulate students to do ...

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  1. Microbes Buried Below Ocean Ridges


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    Map of Juan de Fuca Ridge relative to Western United States. Modified from: Swanson, et al., (1989). Credit: Lyn Topinka / USGS

    Astrobiologists supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute have provided new information about microbial communities below the ocean floor on the flanks of mid-ocean ridges. The team drilled into 3.5 million year-old basalt near the Juan de Fuca Ridge off the coast of Washington state. In the samples they collected, they discovered clear signs of an active microbial ecosystem.

    Studying how life survives in subsurface environments below Earth’s ocean can provide important insights into life’s ...

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  1. The Antiquity of Metalloenzymes


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    Astrobiologists funded in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute have uncovered new information about the role of metalloenzymes in the origins of life. Metalloenzymes are enzymes where metals act as a co-factor or are incorporated as part of the molecule. Phylogenetic analysis of metalloenzymes involved in chemiosmosis suggests that they may have been present in the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) of life on Earth.

    The paper was published as part of a Special Issue of the journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta entitled: Metals in Bioenergetics and Biomimetics Systems.

    Source: [Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Bioenergetics]

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  1. Earth-Sized Planets in Habitable Zones More Common Than Previously Thought


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    This shows starlight on planets relative to sunlight on the Earth. Credit: Chester Harman

    A new study supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute shows that the number of potentially habitable planets in the Universe could be greater than previously thought. The study focuses on Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of low-mass stars.

    When making a conservative estimate, the researchers expect that if you looked at the ten closest small stars to Earth, you would find about four planets. Furthermore, they believe the distance to our nearest potentially habitable planet is about seven light years – half the distance ...

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  1. New Library of Congress Astrobiology Chair


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    photo credit: NASA

    NAI is very pleased to announce that Steven J. Dick has been selected as the second Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology in the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. The Chair position is a partnership between the NASA Astrobiology Program and the Kluge Center.

    Dick recently was the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. He is an astronomer, author and historian who served as the chief historian for NASA from 2003 to 2009. Earlier, he was an astronomer ...

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  1. A New Model for Habitable Zones


    Habitable Zone Estimates

    The graphic shows habitable zone distances around various types of stars. Some of the known extrasolar planets that are considered to be in the habitable zone of their stars are also shown. On this scale, Earth-Sun distance is 1 astronomical unit, which is roughly 150 million kilometers. Credit: Chester Herman

    Astrobiologists supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute have developed an updated model for determining whether or not extrasolar planets lie within the 'habitable zone’ of their host stars. The new model shows that the habitable zone may sit further away from a star than previously thought.

    The findings ...

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