Using the powerful eye of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, two teams of scientists, funded in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, have found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant planets.
The presence of atmospheric water was reported previously on a few exoplanets orbiting stars beyond our solar system, but this is the first study to conclusively measure and compare the profiles and intensities of these signatures on multiple worlds.
The five planets — WASP-17b, HD209458b, WASP-12b, WASP-19b and XO-1b — orbit nearby stars. The strengths of their water signatures varied. WASP-17b, a planet with an especially puffed-up ...December 13, 2013 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Please join us in congratulating our winner and wild cards from the FameLab regional heat at AGU 2013 in San Francisco on December 8th! From left to right: Alli Coffin from Washington State University (wild card), Lilah Rahn-Lee from UC Berkeley (wild card), and Gabriella March from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (winner and audience choice).
Thirteen early career scientists participated in the day – in the morning each contestant gave their first 3-minute, powerpoint-free talk to the judges, and in the afternoon all took part in a training focused on principles and best practices in science communication. Nine advanced to ...December 11, 2013 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Artist's impression of Kepler-62f, a potential super-Earth in its star's habitable zone. Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech
Super-Earths are planets that range from 2-10 times the mass of the Earth, and with radii up to twice as large as our planet. A number of super-Earths have been identified around distant stars, but scientists have yet to determine if any of these planets could be habitable for life as we know it.
The first step in identifying a habitable super-Earth is to check and see if it has a stable, long-term orbit that sits within the habitable zone of its ...December 4, 2013 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
The magnesium silicate forsterite was one of the most abundant minerals in the Hadean Eon, and it played a major role in Earth's near-surface processes. The green color of this mineral (which is also known as the semi-precious gemstone peridot, the birthstone of August) is caused by small amounts iron. The iron can react with seawater to promote chemical reactions that may have played a role in life's origins. Credit: Photo courtesy of Robert Downs, University of Arizona, Ruff Project
The origin of life is thought to have been the result of natural processes that took advantage of ...November 29, 2013 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
The image to the left shows Jennifer Glass working in a chamber where she can control the oxygen levels to mimic the deep sea environment. On the right is an example of marine gas hydrates on the sea floor. Credit: Rob Felt (left image); US Department of Energy (right image)
Astrobiologists supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute have performed a detailed analysis of the biochemistry that helps microorganisms thrive in extremely cold environments around methane seeps on the ocean floor.
The study was led by Jennifer Glass at Georgia Tech, and reveals previously unknown details about how two ...November 25, 2013 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
An example of wrinkle mats at the Dresser Formation. Credit: Wikicommons
Scientists studying geological structures in Australia have found evidence of microbial life in 3.48 billion-year-old rocks. Their discovery could represent the oldest biosignatures yet identified on Earth.
Nora Noffke of Old Dominion University first spotted what looked like a microbially-induced sedimentary structure (or MISS) while visiting Australia in 2008. The MISS structures were found in Western Australia’s Dresser Formation, which contains some of the oldest known rocks on Earth’s surface. The Dresser Formation is an active research site for scientists studying the ancient environment of Earth ...
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft launches from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA’s Mars-bound spacecraft, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN, is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.
Join us in congratulating the MAVEN team on a successful launch!
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission began with a smooth countdown and flawless launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 ...November 19, 2013 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
The dark round blobs in this photomicrograph are the capsids of Bacteriophage T4 virus particles, which retain their characteristic shape after being coated with silica. The long, straight "tails" of many of the virus particles can be seen extending from the capsids in this image as well. Credit: Jim Laidler
What’s a virus to do when it finds itself in an inhospitable environment such as hot water? Coating itself in glass seems to not only provide protection, but may also make it easier to jump to a more favorable location to spread.
Researchers led by a group from the ...
Workers begin integrating and testing the Phoenix spacecrafts landing radar during clean room processing. Credit: NASA/George Shelton
Scientists have identified a new microbe in two geographically distant spacecraft assembly clean rooms. The bacteria is dubbed Tersicoccus phoenicis, since it was first found in the assembly clean room of the Mars Phoenix Lander.November 12, 2013 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
The transition to multicellularity was one of a few major events in life’s history that created new opportunities for more complex biological systems to evolve. As this transition fundamentally changes what constitutes an individual, dissecting the steps in this transition remains a major challenge within evolutionary biology.
Compared with other major transitions in evolution that occurred just once (for example, the origin of eukaryotes), multicellularity has evolved repeatedly. Most origins of multicellularity are ancient and transitional forms have been lost to extinction, so little is known about the potential for multicellularity to evolve from unicellular lineages, or the route ...
New data from Kepler show an increase in the number of Earth-sized planets discovered.
Scientists from around the world are gathered this week at NASA’s Ames Research Center for the second Kepler Science Conference to discuss the latest findings resulting from the analysis of Kepler Space Telescope data.
Included in these findings is the discovery of 833 new candidate planets. Ten of these candidates are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit in their star’s habitable zone, which is defined as the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet ...November 5, 2013 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
The Curiosity Rover took this composite self-portrait in the Rocknest sand patch on Mars. Tests of soil at the site suggest that troublesome chemicals called perchlorates are common on the Red Planet. Credit: NASA
NASA’s Curiosity Rover landed on Mars a little over a year ago, and results from its first four months of data collection have now been published in the journal Science.
Five articles outline numerous findings from Curiosity’s suite of instruments, including data from Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction (CheMin). The studies will help astrobiologists understand past and present environmental conditions on Mars.November 4, 2013 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Please join us in welcoming science historian Steven J. Dick as he begins his term today as the second Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology in the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. He will be in residence for one year.
A well-known astronomer and author, Dick was the chair in aerospace history at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum and served as the chief historian for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from 2003 to 2009.
Dick will examine the historical background of astrobiology, and will ...November 1, 2013 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
The Astrobiology Walk
Join us in congratulating the Goddard Center for Astrobiology on their new “Astrobiology Walk” which is installed at the Visitor Center at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, MD.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on October 29, 2013, headlined by Goddard Center Director Chris Scolese, Senior Scientist for Astrobiology at NASA Mary Voytek, and Mike Mumma, Director of the Goddard Center for Astrobiology and an NAI Principal Investigator.The ribbon is about to be cut! L-R: Mike Mumma, Mary Voytek, Chris Scolese
As each station on the Walk was unveiled, scientist-docents were on hand to explain the ...November 1, 2013 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
This illustration compares Earth with the newly confirmed scorched world of Kepler-78b. Kepler-78b is about 20 percent larger than Earth and is 70% more massive. Kepler-78b whizzes around its host star every 8.5 hours, making it a blazing inferno. Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)
Using data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, astronomers have discovered the first rocky, Earth-sized planet orbiting a distant star. The planet, Kepler-78b, may be 'Earth-sized’ but it is not 'Earth-like.’ It whizzes closely around its host star in just 8.5 hours, and is so hot that it is uninhabitable for life as we know ...October 30, 2013 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
- March 4 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) 2015
- March 5 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Workshop on Issues in Crater Studies and the Dating of Planetary Surfaces
- March 5 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Fourth International Planetary Dunes Workshop: Integrating Models, Remote Sensing, and Field Data
- March 10 - Application Deadline for Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon 2015)
- March 15 - Application Deadline for Summer School: Water, Ice and the Origin of Life in the Universe
- March 15 - Application Deadline for Summer School: Water, Ice and the Origin of Life in the Universe
- March 16 - Application Deadline for the NASA Astrobiology Minority Institution Research Support (MIRS) Program
- March 16 - Submission deadline for FameLab Online Competition
- March 20 - Application Deadline for 22th Young Scientists' Conference on Astronomy and Space Physics
- March 28 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Pathways 2015: Pathways Towards Habitable Planets
- March 30 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Geobiology in Space Exploration (GESE) Workshop on Extraterrestrial Subsurface Exploration
- March 31 - Application Deadline for 2014 Nininger Meteorite Award
- March 31 - NASA Office of Education Scholarship and Research Opportunities
- March 31 - Abstract Submission Deadline for The Origin of Life - Second Conference on History and Philosophy of Astrobiology
- April 1 - Application Review Begins for Postdoctoral Teaching Associate in Mineralogy - University of Tennesee
- April 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for iCubeSat 2015 - 4th Interplanetary CubeSat Workshop
- April 1 - Application Deadline for the NASA Astrobiology Program Student Early Career Collaboration Awards
- April 2 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Goldschmidt 2015
- April 3 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 12th International Planetary Probe Workshop (IPPW-12)
- April 7 - Workshop on Venus Science Priorities for Laboratory Measurements and Instrument Definition
- April 9 - Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG) MEETING #12
- April 13 - Abstract Submission Deadline for NASA's Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) 2nd Annual NASA Exploration Science Forum (ESF)