Michael Russell and Laurie Barge of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are pictured in their Icy Worlds laboratory, where they mimic the conditions of Earth billions of years ago, attempting to answer the question of how life first arose.
Life took root more than four billion years ago on our nascent Earth, a wetter and harsher place than now, bathed in sizzling ultraviolet rays. What started out as simple cells ultimately transformed into slime molds, frogs, elephants, humans and the rest of our planet’s living kingdoms. How did it all begin?
A new study from researchers at ...April 15, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
The disturbance visible at the outer edge of Saturn's A ring in this image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft could be caused by an object replaying the birth process of icy moons.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon, and may also provide clues to the formation of the planet’s known moons.
Images taken with Cassini’s narrow angle camera on April 15, 2013 show disturbances at the very edge of Saturn’s A ring — the outermost of the planet’s ...April 14, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
Technical drawing of the MARTE (left). MARTE simulation chamber (right). Credits: Rev. Sci. Instrum. 85, 035111 (2014) (left image) and Martín-Gago/ICMM (right image)
Researchers at the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) in Madrid, Spain, have developed a Mars simulator that replicates almost all of the environmental variables on the red planet that pose a challenge for exploration equipment.
MARTE is a modular simulation chamber, and its flexible design allows scientists to re-configure the chamber to accommodate equipment of different sizes and shapes. The environment inside MARTE is also tuneable, allowing researchers to adjust factors like pressure, temperature and atmospheric composition ...
Take a spectacular trip to distant realms of our solar system to discover where life may exist on other worlds! Combining the latest telescope images with dazzling animation, this NOVA TV program immerses audiences in the sights and sounds of alien worlds, while top astrobiologists explain how these places are changing how we think about the potential for life in our solar system.
Short video clips and classroom materials accompany the film online.
Source: [NOVA]April 10, 2014 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
MIT professor of geophysics Daniel Rothman stands next to part of the Xiakou formation in China. His right hand rests on the layer that marks the time of the end-Permian mass extinction event.
Evidence left at the crime scene is abundant and global: Fossil remains show that sometime around 252 million years ago, about 90 percent of all species on Earth were suddenly wiped out — by far the largest of this planet’s five known mass extinctions. But pinpointing the culprit has been difficult, and controversial.
Now, a team of NAI-funded researchers at MIT may have found enough evidence to ...
Please join us in congratulating Lyl Tomlinson from SUNY Stony Brook on winning the FameLab USA National Competition, co-sponsored by the NASA Astrobiology Program.
Lyl joins the winners of FameLab competitions from 23 other countries all over the world. He will represent the United States in the FameLab International Final on June 5th at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK.
Watch the archived webcast of the Final!
At six regional heats throughout the US over the past 18 months, nearly 100 early career scientists from across the US have participated in FameLab USA. They each bravely took the stage ...April 8, 2014 / Written by: Daniella Scalice
NAI-funded astrobiologists at the University of Washington have developed a new method of gauging the atmospheric pressure of exoplanets, or worlds beyond the solar system, by looking for a certain type of molecule.
And if there is life out in space, scientists may one day use this same technique to detect its biosignature — the telltale chemical signs of its presence — in the atmosphere of an alien world.
Understanding atmospheric pressure is key to knowing if conditions at the surface of a terrestrial, or rocky, exoplanet might allow liquid water, thus giving life a chance.
The method, devised by Amit Misra ...
The new model of the structure of Enceladus, showing the southern ocean and rocky silicate core. Credit: NASA/JPL and Cal Tech
Measurements from the Cassini spacecraft have found a body of liquid water the size of a great lake on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
Speculations about the abundance of water on Enceladus have been ongoing since plumes were discovered jetting out of its south pole in 2005. Debates centered around whether the water jets were a local phenomenon, resulting from friction between surface ice, or proof of a large subsurface supply, such as a lake or ocean.
The latest ...
Sara Walker, assistant professor at Arizona State University. Credit: BEYOND, ASU
Astrobiologist Sara Walker is exploring ways to measure the transition from non-living to living matter. Her approach could broaden our understanding of how unique—or common—life might be in the Universe.
The story of life’s origin is one of the great unsolved mysteries of science. The puzzle boils down to bridging the gap between two worlds—chemistry and biology. We know how molecules behave, and we know how cells work. But we still don’t know how a soup of lifeless molecules could have given rise to ...
Compounds dissociate to form functionalized aromatic hydrocarbons upon expansion and cooling to ambient conditions. Credit: Adapted from Goldman and Tamblyn, 2013.
Astrobiologists have provided new information about how comets and asteroids could have delivered prebiotic chemical compounds to the early Earth. The team studied how shock pressures can lead to the production of a number of compounds that could have been used in life’s origins. They performed their study by simulating impacts into an icy mixture rich in carbon dioxide.
Impacts that generated only moderate pressures were needed to produce aromatic hydrocarbons when the mixture was heated, expanded and ...April 2, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Early Career Seminar: Paula Welander
Hopanoid Biosynthesis and Function in Methanotrophic Bacteria
Paula Welander of Stanford University will be presenting the next Early Career Seminar on April 7, 2014, at 11am PDT. Welander studies molecular fossils in order to better understand how microbial communities in the past altered the Earth’s surface environment and impacted life’s evolution on our planet.
Details of Welander’s upcoming talk can be found here.
Source: [Early Career Seminars]March 31, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
This artist's concept illustrates the preferred model for explaining ALMA observations of Beta Pictoris. At the outer fringes of the system, the gravitational influence of a hypothetical giant planet (bottom left) captures comets into a dense, massive swarm (right) where frequent collisions occur. Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/F. Reddy
An international team of astronomers led by NAI-funded astrobiologists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center exploring the disk of gas and dust around a nearby star have uncovered a compact cloud of poisonous gas formed by ongoing rapid-fire collisions among a swarm of icy, comet-like ...
These are the discovery images of 2012 VP113. Three images of the night sky, each taken about two hours apart, were combined into one. The first image was artificially colored red, second green and third blue. 2012 VP113 moved between each image as seen by the red, green and blue dots. The background stars and galaxies did not move. Credit: Courtesy Scott Sheppard and Chad Trujillo
Astronomers have spotted a new dwarf planet named 2012 VP113, the discovery of which extends the edge of the known Solar System. 2012 VP113 is likely to be just one of the thousands of ...March 26, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
This scanning electron microscope image of a polished thin section of a meteorite from Mars shows tunnels and curved microtunnels. Image Credit: NASA
Scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and JPL have recently found evidence of past water movement throughout a Martian meteorite, reviving debate in the scientific community over life on Mars.
In 1996, a group of scientists at Johnson led by David McKay, Everett Gibson, and Kathie Thomas-Keprta published an article in Science announcing the discovery of biogenic evidence in the Allan Hills 84001(ALH84001) meteorite.
In this new study, Gibson and his colleagues focused on structures ...
Lenticulae terrain on the surface of Europa. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Colorado
Researchers at the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) in Spain have used laboratory experiments to show that water, salts and gases dissolved in Europa’s ocean could rise to the surface to create geological features. The study might help explain how reddish materials at the surface are formed.
Images of Europa from missions like Galileo and Voyager revealed red-tinged materials associated with fractures in the moon’s icy surface. Astrobiologists have long wondered if these reddish marks are evidence that materials can be transported between ...March 24, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
- February 28 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Workshop on the Formation of the Solar System II
- March 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 28th Annual Meeting of the Israel Society for Astrobiology and the Study of the Origin of Life (ILASOL)
- March 1 - Application Deadline for the NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellowship Program
- March 1 - Application Deadline for 1st Advanced School on Exoplanetary Science
- March 2 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 11th IAA Low-Cost Planetary Mission Conference (LCPM-11)
- 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)