1. NAI Scientist Delivers Sagan Lecture at AGU

    Tori Hoehler of NAI’s NASA Ames Research Center team had the honor of delivering the Carl Sagan Lecture this past December at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. This lecture is given at the Fall Meeting every year and features a prominent speaker addressing issues in Astrobiology and the development of life on Earth.

    Source: [AGU]

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  1. Astrobiology Opens Pandora’s Box

    Lisa Kaltenegger from NAI’s MIT team discusses exoplanets and science fiction with CNN World, noting that it’s likely many moons such as Avatar’s Pandora exist, and we’re that much closer to finding them with NASA’s Kepler mission.

    Source: [CNN World]

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  1. IceBite Blog: Visiting Lake Joyce

    A team of seven scientists recently returned from the first field season of NASA’s IceBite project. The team installed scientific probes in the ice and frozen ground and scouted for sites where drills for future Mars missions will be tested next year. In this second set of blog entries by team member Margarita Marinova, she discusses the trip to their first field site, Lake Joyce.

    Currently, the Astrobiology Magazine is providing a direct link to scientists on the IceBite team, where readers can ask questions about the science being conducted in Antarctica.

    Source: []

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  1. Age of the Solar System Needs to Be Recalculated

    A new paper in Science from NAI’s Arizona State University team indicates that a trusted equation for calculating the age of the solar system may need rewriting. The team’s measurements show that one of the equation’s assumptions — that certain kinds of uranium always appear in the same relative quantities in meteorites — is wrong.

    The differences in the quantities of uranium could mean that current estimates of the age of the solar system overshoot that age by 1 million years or more. Historical estimates place the age at about 4.5 billion years—a number that is not precise enough ...

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  1. Kepler: The First Five

    NASA’s Kepler space telescope, designed to find Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of sun-like stars, has discovered its first five new exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system.

    Kepler’s high sensitivity to both small and large planets enabled the discovery of the exoplanets, named Kepler 4b, 5b, 6b, 7b and 8b. The discoveries were announced Monday, Jan. 4, by the members of the Kepler science team during a news briefing at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington.

    Source: []

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  1. Dark Days Ahead for Spirit

    NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit, has now marked six incredible years on the martian surface. The mission was initially scheduled for only three months, yet the durable rover has continued to collect scientific data through numerous seasons on Mars. The data collected by Spirit will help astrobiologists determine if the environment of Mars was ever suitable for life as we know it.

    Source: [NASA JPL]

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  1. Summer Workshops for Teachers in Astrobiology

    Every summer, NAI teams and others host hands-on, in-the-field, in-the-lab workshops for educators. The workshops feature cutting edge astrobiology research delivered by astrobiology scientists and education professionals, as well as inquiry- and standards-based activities ready for your classroom. Below is the list of offerings for Summer 2010. STAY TUNED FOR THE LIST FOR 2011!

    Dates: July 18 -24, 2010
    Location: San Francisco, CA
    Applications due: February 12, 2010
    The ASSET experience will be intense and exciting, interactive and content rich, with presentations by leading astrobiology researchers ...

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  1. Variety Is the Splice of Life

    Mark Young from NAI’s Montana State University Team and Jill Banfield from NAI’s Emeritus Team at UC Berkeley have teamed up to study genetic exchange in bacterial and archeal populations. Their new Science paper, Variety—the Splice of Life—in Microbial Populations, describes the effects of their exchange of genetic material – from useless to critical in terms of selection. They also observed the splicing of viral material.

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  1. Could Kepler Find Avatar’s Moon Pandora?

    In the new blockbuster Avatar, humans visit the habitable – and inhabited – alien moon called Pandora. Life-bearing moons like Pandora or the Star Wars forest moon of Endor are a staple of science fiction. With NASA’s Kepler mission showing the potential to detect Earth-sized objects, habitable moons may soon become science fact. If we find them nearby, a new paper by Smithsonian astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger shows that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be able to study their atmospheres and detect key gases like carbon dioxide, oxygen, and water vapor.

    “If Pandora existed, we potentially could detect it ...

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  1. Salt Ponds Could Be Clue to Life on Mars

    Rocco Mancinelli, PI of NAI’s Emeritus Team at the SETI Institute, will use a zeppelin airship to watch red salt ponds turn green while the environment is changed from near-Martian conditions into wetlands. Work will begin next year on a decades-long project to restore thousands of acres of industrial salt-harvesting ponds in San Francisco Bay into native wetland habitat. The ponds are colored red because of the color of microbes that flourish in the extremely salty conditions. Green microbes will replace red ones as the wetlands are restored.

    Source: [San Francisco Examiner]

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  1. First Super-Earths Discovered Around Sun-Like Stars

    Two nearby stars have been found to harbor “super-Earths”― rocky planets larger than the Earth but smaller than ice giants such as Uranus and Neptune. Unlike previously discovered stars with super-Earths, both of the stars are similar to the Sun, suggesting to scientists that low-mass planets may be common around nearby stars. “Over the last 12 years or so nearly 400 planets have been found, and the vast majority of them have been very large―Jupiter mass or even larger,” says researcher Paul Butler of NAI’s team at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. “These latest planets are ...

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  1. Teachers Are the Students at Georgia Tech

    Since its inception in 1991, The Georgia Intern-Fellowship for Teachers (GIFT) program at Georgia Tech has placed STEM teachers in more than 1,400 summer research positions in industry and academia statewide. Georgia Tech also pairs GIFT teachers with undergraduate students interested in becoming teachers.

    NAI’s team at Georgia Tech has developed an astrobiology education program to provide two high school biology GIFT teachers and one undergraduate biology student with a summer research experience, investigating extremophiles. They also developed an astrobiology curriculum for a one-week summer enrichment program for 23 high school students. The enrichment program, “Life on the Edge ...

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  1. IceBite Blog: Learning to Respect the Weather

    NASA’s IceBite project will spend three austral summers in Antarctica testing ice-penetrating drills for a future mission to Mars. A team of seven scientists is in Antarctica now for the first field season, installing scientific probes in the ice and frozen ground, and scouting for sites where the drills will be tested the following year. Team member, Margarita Marinova, is writing a blog of the team’s activities. In this first set of entries, she describes preparations for deployment to the field. In addition, readers can now send questions directly to the scientists as they explore Antarctica’s McMurdo ...

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  1. The Meandering Channels of Mars

    Sinuous channels on the Martian surface may be evidence of relatively recent rainfall. Researchers funded by NASA’s Mars Fundamental Research Program plan to test this hypothesis by studying sinuous streams on Earth.

    Source: []

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  1. What Life Leaves Behind

    In 1976, NASA’s twin Viking landers arrived on Mars, equipped with four experiments designed to offer foolproof evidence of life on the Red Planet. They were looking for biosignatures, or fingerprints of life. As they took their first scoops of Martian soil, the whole world held its breath.

    Source: [SEED Magazine]

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