NAI

  1. Program Solicitation in Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology


    The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released a program solicitation for research in sedimentary geology and paleobiology. The program focuses on numerous areas of research that are significant to the science of astrobiology. Among the topics of interest cited by the NSF are: the use of fossils, plants, animals and microbes to study how life has changed over geologic time; the science of dating and measuring time and rates of processes in the Earth’s sedimentary and biological fossil record; and studying the pre-Holocene climate systems of Earth. Proposals that seek to link multiple disciplines such as paleoclimatology, paleoenvironments and ...

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  1. NAI Team Seminars Recorded and Available Online


    A series of virtual seminars highlighting the work of the NAI’s fourteen teams concluded on April 27, 2009. In successive seminars held two per week over a period of two months, each team presented their science, education and outreach and other activities. The seminars were open to all, and participants had the option of joining in by phone and web, or by videoconference. The seminars attracted audiences that ranged from ~50-80 people each, and were recorded and archived on the NAI website. The seminars may be downloaded as podcasts or viewed as web recordings that play in a browser.

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  1. Outer Space Oreos


    Scientists have previously exposed organisms and biomolecules to the many rigors of space, but those experiments only managed to take “before” and “after” pictures of their samples. A planned small satellite will monitor on a continuous basis the negative effects of space on biology. The upcoming O/OREOS mission will be the first demonstration flight of the ASTID small payloads initiative.

    Source: [Astrobiology Magazine]

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  1. NAI Ames Research Center Team Launches New Website


    The NAI Ames Research Center Team announces the launch of their new website at http://www.amesteam.arc.nasa.gov. The site contains news, highlights, a member directory, research overviews, E/PO information and more.

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  1. Darwin in a Test Tube


    Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have discovered a way to make molecules evolve and compete according to the laws of Darwinian evolution. Using RNA, the researchers were able to demonstrate that only the fittest molecules survived in the presence of a limited resource. When resources were plentiful, molecules would become increasingly specialized through generations of replication.

    This fascinating work is helping astrobiologists better understand the processes that underlie evolution. Additionally, the results could shed some light on how primitive molecules on Earth first gave live to living organisms.

    The work was funded through NASA’s Exobiology & Evolutionary Biology program ...

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  1. Reflections of Chirality as a Possible Biomarker


    Scientists have come up with a novel way to detect life on other planets. Rather than try to measure the composition of atmospheres, they want to look at the chirality of light coming from the planet. “If the [planet’s] surface had just a collection of random chiral molecules, half would go left, half right,” says author T.A. Germer of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “But life’s self-assembly means they all would go one way. It’s hard to imagine a planet’s surface exhibiting handedness without the presence of self assembly, which is an essential ...

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  1. Student Astronomers Earn Top Honors in State Science Fair


    NAI’s University of Hawai’i Team has conducted the Hawai’i Student-Teacher Astronomy Research (HI STAR) program for the past four years and counting, supporting middle and high school students to carry-out astronomy research projects under the mentorship of NAI scientists and other astronomers. Teams of 3-4 students and their science teacher come to UH for a week in the summer for background training, project selection, and mentor-matching. Through lectures, demos, and hands-on activities, the students learn astronomical concepts such as spectroscopy, image processing, and remote observation. Projects are selected, and students make plans with their mentors to conduct ...

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  1. Reanimating Extinct Genes


    Can evolution be played over again in the lab? A group of researchers plans to insert an ancient gene in a modern day bacteria and see if this gene will mutate back to its current-day form. The results will give insight into how unique the evolutionary path may be.

    Source: [Astrobiology Magazine]

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  1. Planetary Science Decadal Survey



    Dear Colleague:


    This is the first of what will be a regular series of newsletters to the astrobiology community regarding the 2009-2011 Planetary Science Decadal Survey. We all get too much email, so I’ll try to keep these concise!


    The key points in this newsletter are these:


    1) The decadal survey will establish the priorities for planetary exploration in the U.S. for the coming decade.
    2) Astrobiology is a major crosscutting theme of NASA’s planetary science activities and a central facet of the survey’s scientific scope.
    3) The process is just getting started, and will continue ...

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  1. NASA’s Kepler Captures First Views of Planet-Hunting Territory


    NASA’s Kepler mission has taken its first images of the star-rich sky where it will soon begin hunting for planets like Earth. The new “first light” images show the mission’s target patch of sky, a vast starry field in the Cygnus-Lyra region of our Milky Way galaxy. One image shows millions of stars in Kepler’s full field of view, while two others zoom in on portions of the larger region.

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  1. Life at Blood Falls


    Researchers from NASA’s Exobiology Program and colleagues have discovered an unmapped reservoir of briny liquid buried under an inland Antarctic glacier that supports unusual microbial life. The environment is cold, dark, and lacks oxygen; conditions which would previously have led scientists to believe nothing could survive. After sampling and analyzing the outflow from below the Taylor Glacier, researchers believe that, lacking enough light to make food through photosynthesis, the microbes have adapted over the past 1.5 million years to manipulate sulfur and iron compounds to survive. Their research is published in the current issue of Science.

    Source: [Astrobiology ...

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  1. Evidence for the Great Oxidation Event Challenged


    The timing of the rise of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere is a key question in astrobiology. It is coupled not only to the question of when organisms capable of oxygenic photosynthesis first evolved on Earth, but also what signs of life might be found on young Earth-like planets around other stars.

    Members of NAI’s Penn State and Carnegie Institution of Washington Teams report in the current issue of Science that certain sulfur isotopes found in many sedimentary rocks older than 2.4 billion years may not be the result of photochemical reactions in an oxygen-free atmosphere as previously ...

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  1. Program Solicitation in Geobiology and Low-Temperature Geochemistry


    The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released a program solicitation in Geobiology and Low-Temperature Geochemistry. The program will support research in a number of topics relevant to astrobiology, including the interactions between biological and geological systems, geomicrobiology, biomineralization processes and the development of tools, methods and models for conducting low-temperature geochemistry and geobiology research.

    Studying the interactions between biology and geology throughout Earth’s history is essential in determining what makes our planet habitable. This information can also help astrobiologists determine if other locations in our solar system, such as Mars, could have once supported life as we know it ...

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  1. NASA Astrobiology Website Is Official Webby Honoree


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    The NASA Astrobiology Program website has been selected as an Official Honoree of the 13th annual Webby Awards! The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences presents Webby Awards and names Official Webby Honorees in 70 categories spanning art, health, music, and science. Of nearly 10,000 entries to the competition, fewer than 15% were selected as honorees, and the NASA Astrobiology Program website shares this year’s distinction in the category of Website/Science with ten other websites including the likes of Seed Magazine ...

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  1. Elemental Evolution


    Ariel Anbar of NAI’s ASU Team share his thoughts on fossils, Star Trek, and life on Mars with May Copsey of RSC Publishing

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