The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) welcomes back Dr. Carl B. Pilcher as NAI Interim Director. Carl will begin his tenure August 11, 2014, and serve on a half-time basis for approximately one year as the selection of a permanent director is completed.
Dr. Pilcher has had careers in both academia and NASA management. Dr. Pilcher retired as Director of the NAI in early 2013, after leading the Institute for more than six years. Prior to directing the Institute he was the Senior Scientist for Astrobiology at NASA Headquarters with overall management responsibility for NASA’s Astrobiology Program.
With bachelor’s ...August 7, 2014 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on August 3, 2014, from a distance of 177 miles (285 kilometers). Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
After a decade-long journey chasing its target, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe, carrying three NASA instruments, became the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
“After 10 years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion kilometers, we are delighted to announce finally we are here,” ...
An artistic conception of the early Earth, showing a surface pummeled by large impacts, resulting in extrusion of deep seated magma onto the surface. At the same time, distal portions of the surface could have retained liquid water. Credit: Simone Marchi/SwRI.
New research shows that more than four billion years ago the surface of Earth was heavily reprocessed – or melted, mixed, and buried – as a result of giant asteroid impacts. A new terrestrial bombardment model, calibrated using existing lunar and terrestrial data, sheds light on the role asteroid collisions played in the evolution of the uppermost layers of the ...August 6, 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
Last week, NASA announced seven instruments that will make up the payload of the Mars 2020 rover. Among those instruments is SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals).
SHERLOC will provide fine-scale imaging, and will also use an ultraviolet laser to study mineralogy and search for organic compounds. SHERLOC will be used to detect molecules that contain rings of carbon atoms. Such molecules may ...August 4, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
An artist concept image of where seven carefully-selected instruments will be located on NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. The instruments will conduct unprecedented science and exploration technology investigations on the Red Planet as never before. Image Credit: NASA
NASA has announced seven carefully-selected instruments that will make up the payload of the next rover being sent to Mars. The Mars 2020 rover is based on the successful design of Curiosity, which is currently exploring the martian surface. The new rover’s payload consists of upgraded hardware and new instruments that will study geology and the potential habitability of the martian environment ...August 1, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
This view looks across the geyser basin of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, along fractures spewing water vapor and ice particles into space. Cassini scientists have pinpointed the source locations of about 100 geysers and gained new insights into what powers them. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI
Two papers published in the Astronomical Journal represent the first comprehensive study of the connections between geysers, tidal stresses, and thermal emissions at the south pole of Enceladus.
In the first study, researchers used 6.5 years of data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to identify 101 geysers erupting from the ...July 30, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
This is an artistic illustration of the gas giant planet HD 209458b (unofficially named Osiris) located 150 light-years away in the constellation Pegasus. This is a "hot Jupiter" class planet.
Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have gone looking for water vapor in the atmospheres of three planets orbiting stars similar to the Sun — and have come up nearly dry.
The three planets, HD 189733b, HD 209458b, and WASP-12b, are between 60 and 900 light-years away. These giant gaseous worlds are so hot, with temperatures between 1,500 and 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, that they are ideal candidates for detecting ...July 25, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Due to its high iron content, the acidic Río Tinto river flows like red wine through a multicolored and rocky landscape. The Río Tinto has an average pH of 2.3, which is acidic enough to eat metal. Image credit: Leslie Mullen
Astrobiologists have outlined how geochemistry and metabolism are connected in subsurface microbial ecosystems beneath Spain’s Rio Tinto region. The Iberian Pyrite Belt (IPB) in the Río Tinto area is the largest known deposit of sulfide on Earth, and for decades it has been a field-site for scientists studying chemolithotrophic microbes.
In the early 2000 ...July 24, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Motivated by the rapidly increasing number of known Earth-sized planets, the increasing range of extreme conditions in which life on Earth can persist, and the progress toward a technology that will ultimately enable the search for life on exoplanets, the Vatican Observatory and the Steward Observatory conducted a major conference entitled The Search for Life Beyond the Solar System: Exoplanets, Biosignatures & Instruments in March, 2014.
All the sessions were recorded and are archived here.
The conference brought together the interdisciplinary community required to address this multi-faceted challenge: experts on exoplanet observations, early and extreme life on Earth, atmospheric biosignatures, and ...July 18, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Just like Earth, Venus and Mars may once have been watery worlds. Image Credit: ESA
“An origin of life is not the same as an origin of a biosphere—that’s an important distinction,” says David Grinspoon, planetary scientist, curator of astrobiology for the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and the first Baruch S. Blumberg NASA-Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology.
To illustrate the concept Grinspoon offers a simple analogy. Say you’re starting a camp fire. It’s easy to get it to spark up, but you have to tend it first or it may just ...
A sunflower-shaped ‘starshade’ launched to space with a simple telescope could help scientists on the ground hunt for another Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech
Before the invention of the telescope, before every continent was on a map, even before the revelation that Earth was not the center of the Universe, humans have wondered at the possibility of life beyond our planet. Now, scientists know there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone (one of 10 billion galaxies in the mere observable Universe), and 10-20 percent of these stars could have earth-size planets within the habitable zone ...
Data management and sharing are growing concerns for scientists and funding organizations throughout the world. Funding organizations are implementing requirements for data management plans, while scientists are establishing new infrastructures for data sharing. One of the difficulties is sharing data among a diverse set of research disciplines. Astrobiology is a unique community of researchers, containing over 110 different disciplines.
In this new study, the results of a survey of data management practices among scientists involved in the astrobiology community and the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) in particular are presented. The results of the survey show that the astrobiology community shares ...July 14, 2014 / Written by: Daniella Scalice
The Licancabur volcano (5,917 m elevation – 19,800 ft) from Bolivia. Photo Credit: The High Lakes Project: The SETI Institute Carl Sagan Center/NASA Ames/ NAI
Astrobiologists from the United States and Germany have recorded the highest level of UV radiation from the Sun yet known at the Earth’s surface.
You might expect the highest radiation levels of this type on Earth to be somewhere in Antarctica – underneath the hole in Earth’s ozone layer. This layer of Earth’s stratosphere contains higher concentrations of ozone gas (O3) than the rest of the atmosphere, and ...July 11, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
NASA Television will air a panel discussion of leading science and engineering experts on Monday, July 14, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. EDT, who will describe the scientific and technological roadmap that will lead to the discovery of potentially habitable worlds among the stars.
The public is invited to attend or view the event, which will take place in the Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E Street SW in Washington.
Space and ground observatories are cataloging and characterizing hundreds and what is expected to eventually be thousands of potentially habitable worlds in our galaxy. NASA space-based observatories ...July 10, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
How do we define “life?” This fundamental question has remained largely philosophical, because it has been asked for so long, by so many, and with so few concrete conclusions.
In this seminar, produced by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, Dr. Steven Benner takes a different tack. He shows how laboratory studies can create a second example of life, helping us develop a firmer scientific understanding of what life is. The challenge of “synthetic biology” is on!
Dr. Benner discusses how we are hitchhiking on rockets, rovers, and telescopes to find life elsewhere in the Solar System, and describes how his ...July 9, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
- October 6 - Registration Deadline for Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) Meeting
- October 6 - Registration Deadline for 2nd International Planetary Caves Conference
- October 16 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 2016 Gordon Research Conference & Seminar "Origins of Life"
- October 20 - Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) Meeting
- October 23 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Paneth Kolloquium: First 10 Million Years of the Solar System
- October 28 - International Meeting: Missions to Habitable Worlds
- October 31 - Application Deadline for 2016 Vatican Observatory Summer School in Astrophyics on Water in the Solar System and Beyond
- October 31 - Application Deadline for the 2016 Exploration Postdoctoral Fellowships at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University
- November 1 - Application Deadline for NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Program Fellowshi[
- November 1 - Geological Society of America (GSA) 2015 Annual Meeting
- November 2 - K2 Science Conference (K2SciCon)
- November 5 - Application Deadline for 2016 Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowships
- November 11 - Paneth Kolloquium: First 10 Million Years of the Solar System
- November 16 - French Astrobiology Society Young Researchers Congress