Phylogenetic relationships of dsrB sequences from borehole 1025C and U1301A fluids. Robador et al., 2014
A new study supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the Astrobiology program is shedding light on microbial communities that live in low-temperature fluids just beneath the ocean crust. The largest aquifer system on Earth exists beneath the crust at the bottom of our planet’s oceans, yet life in this remote environment has remained relatively unexplored for decades. By drilling into the ocean floor, scientists retrieved low-temperature (<100°C) fluids from the environment. In the samples they found evidence of sulfate reducing microbes over a range of temperatures.
The results suggest that sulfate reducing microbes could be responsible for the removal of organic matter in fluids ...100°c)>February 9, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
In the muddy sediments beneath the deep sea, NAI-funded astrobiologists have found ancient communities of microbes that have remained virtually unchanged for 2.3 billion years.
Researchers say these microscopic organisms are an example of “extreme evolutionary stasis” and represent the greatest lack of evolution ever seen.
They may also, paradoxically, prove that Darwin’s theory of evolution is true.
“If evolution is a product of changes in the physical and biological environment, and there are no changes in the physical and biological environment, then there will be no evolution,” said William Schopf, a paleobiologist at UCLA.
He calls it ...
Application Deadline Extended to: July 10, 2015
NASA seeks a new Director for the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). The ideal candidate will be an internationally recognized scientist with proven experience in leading or managing large interdisciplinary research programs or projects, possessed with a vision for leading the Institute into the future. Applicants for this position should have a broad scientific perspective on astrobiology, experience in conducting interdisciplinary scientific research, and demonstrated skills needed to harness the strengths of disparate research communities towards a greater goal. S/he should understand how to grow a research endeavor and respond to changing budget ...February 5, 2015 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
Students in the Habitable Worlds course learn what goes into making a planet. Credit: Anbar/Horodyskyj
NAI-funded astrobiologists and educators at Arizona State University have made great strides in online education. Using themes in astrobiology, their Habitable Worlds course brings critical thinking skills to non-science majors…and the world is taking notice.
Astrobiologist Aims to Make Science Education More Interactive
I remember battling sleepiness as I slouched in a large lecture hall, squinting to make out the writing on the blackboard during my freshman introductory physics course in college. My difficulty staying alert in class was not the fault of the ...
With support from the NASA Astrobiology Program, Cavosie brought students from the University of Puerto Rico to study outcrops at the Rock Elm meteorite impact structure. Reidite was found in the samples they collected. Credit: Aaron Cavosie
Researchers have identified a rare mineral in a Wisconsin meteorite crater. The mineral reidite was found in the Rock Elm impact structure, making this only the fourth site on Earth where it has been identified.
Reidite is a high-pressure mineral with well-constrained formation conditions, and was first identified in the laboratory in the 1960s. The only other sites where it has been spotted ...January 13, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
A NASA portrait of Dr. Baruch Blumberg in 1999. Image credit: NASA/Tom Trower
Baruch S. “Barry” Blumberg, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was the founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). When Blumberg passed away suddenly of a heart attack at age 85 on April 5, 2011, it was a huge loss for the astrobiology community.
This month, the journal Astrobiology features a tribute to Barry Blumberg written by current NAI Director, Carl Piltcher. The article is freely available on the journal’s website, and provides a background of Blumberg’s remarkable life, his groundbreaking ...January 9, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Current Europa missions under study by NASA are focused on answering the question “Is Europa habitable?” However, the potential presence of water plumes on the satellite could present an opportunity to pursue the question “Is there life on Europa?” Answering this question is far more challenging because measurements currently possible may provide only ambiguous results from a mission that either orbits or flies by Europa at relatively high velocity. To that end, NASA’s Planetary Science Division is convening a workshop to consider strategies to investigate Europa’s putative plumes for evidence of life. Invitees will be asked to provide ...January 7, 2015 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
A biological soil crust in Hovenweep National Monument, a region located in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. Credit: Nationalparks (Transferred by Nihonjoe)/Wikipedia
“Biological soil crusts” don’t look like much. In fact, people often trample right over these dark, or green-tinted, sometimes raised patches in the desert soil. But these scruffy stretches can house delicate ecosystems as varied and complexly interwoven as that of a lush, tropical rainforest.
Three new papers in the scientific journal Genome Association shed light on the microbes that commonly set up shop in biological soil crusts in Utah’s Moab Desert ...
Overlay of sketch on photograph from above to assist in the identification of the structures on the rock bed surface. Image credit: Noffke (2015). Courtesy of ASTROBIOLOGY, published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
A careful study of images taken by the NASA rover Curiosity has revealed intriguing similarities between ancient sedimentary rocks on Mars and structures shaped by microbes on Earth. The findings suggest, but do not prove, that life may have existed earlier on the Red Planet. The photos were taken as Curiosity drove through the Gillespie Lake outcrop in Yellowknife Bay.
The study was supported ...
Scott Sandford next to a cryovacuum systems that helps reveal the chemistry that produces organic compounds of astrobiological interest. Credit: NASA Ames/Sandford
A team of scientists has published the results of an investigative survey into the Sutter’s Mill meteorite that landed in California in 2012. The results reveal that the meteorite contained a number of features associated with minerals such as olivines, phyllosilicates, carbonates, and possibly pyroxenes, as well as organics. However, a key conclusion of the paper, and one that is likely to be of keen interest to astrobiologists, is confirmation that meteorites can become contaminated by ...
Abstract submissions for the 2015 Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) have now closed. For details, visit the AbSciCon 2015 website at: http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/abscicon2015/
AbSciCon 2015 is the next in a series of conferences organized by researchers within the interdisciplinary field of astrobiology. Scientists from around the world will gather in Chicago, Illinois, from June 15-19, 2015, to report new research findings and plan for astrobiology’s future. The theme of AbSciCon 2015 is “Habitability, Habitable Worlds, and Life.”
Other key dates include:
May 1, 2015 – Program and abstracts available
June 15–19, 2015 – Astrobiology ...December 20, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity drilled into this rock target, “Cumberland,” during the 279th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (May 19, 2013) and collected a powdered sample of material from the rock’s interior. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
NASA’s Curiosity rover has made two of its most important observations on Mars since arriving on the planet in 2012. First, the rover measured a spike in levels of the organic chemical methane in the local atmosphere of its Gale Crater research site.
The second big discovery came when the rover drilled into a rock ...December 19, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
DATE: Wednesday, February 18, 2015
TIME: 8:30am – 5:30pm PST
LOCATION: NASA Ames Research Center, Building 152, Moffett Field, California
On February 18, 2015, the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) and the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) will co-host the workshop at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California.
Current Europa missions under study by NASA are focused on answering the question “Is Europa habitable?” However, the potential presence of water plumes on the satellite could present an opportunity to pursue the question “Is there life on Europa?” Answering this question is far more challenging because measurements ...December 15, 2014 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
Looking for astrobiology related sessions at AGU? We’ve combed through the program and made this quick and easy cheat sheet.
Download the astrobiology related sessions PDF here
You can find the full program at: http://fallmeeting.agu.org/2014/scientific-program/December 14, 2014 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
AbGradE (Astrobiology Graduates in Europe) held its first symposium in Edinburgh, UK, 10–11 October. The symposium started with an icebreaker event and consisted of two days of scientific sessions combined with networking, a round table, and a public outreach and education event. Approximately 40 enthusiastic and motivated early-career astrobiologists from all over Europe and beyond attended the symposium, presenting their work followed by discussions that enhanced sharing ideas with their contemporaries.
With the success of the first symposium, the committee is planning to hold the symposium biyearly along with the EANA meeting. For more information on AbGradE, visit: http ...December 9, 2014 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
- August 5 - Abstract Submission Deadline for American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting
- August 5 - Direct Imaging of Habitable Exoplanets (Session P003) Abstract Submission Deadline for American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting
- August 11 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) Meeting
- August 11 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Geological Society of America (GSA) 2015 Annual Meeting
- August 15 - Registration Deadline for The Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) Meeting
- August 20 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Astrobiology and Planetary Atmospheres 2015
- August 21 - Summer School at Moletai Observatory: "Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems and Habitable Planets"
- August 24 - Berkner Autumn Program 2015
- September 2 - NRC Committee on Achieving Science Goals with CubeSats Symposium
- September 6 - Registration Deadline for Astrobiology and Planetary Atmospheres 2015
- September 15 - Registration Deadline for International Meeting: Missions to Habitable Worlds