Ball and stick model of the oxalic acid molecule. Credit: Ben Mills and Jynto, Wikimedia Commons
A new study is helping astrobiologists understand whether or not the decomposition of oxalic acid could act as a source of C-O-H in petrologic experiments. The team studied how oxalic acid decomposes in oxidizing, reducing and unbuffered solutions at temperatures up to 800 °C.
The paper, “In-situ characterization of oxalic acid breakdown at elevated P and T: Implications for organic C-O-H fluid sources ...April 3, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Researchers sail the PLL toward the northwest finger of Laguna Negra. Credit: Chris Haberle
Researchers supported by the Astrobiology Science & Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) element of the Astrobiology Program have published a field report on the Planetary Lake Lander (PLL) probe. The report describes the design and operation of the PLL as well as its ground data systems.
The PLL is designed to study physical, chemical, and biological processes in a high-altitude lake, and how these processes are being affected by deglaciation. The PLL also provides an opportunity to test technologies that could be used on a future mission to Saturn’s moon Titan.
Check out the Planetary Lake Lander Project Video Series here.
The study, “Planetary Lake Lander—A Robotic Sentinel to Monitor Remote Lakes,” was published in the Journal of Field Robotics.
Source: [Journal of Field Robotics]April 1, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Finalists from FameLab Season 3 Regional Competition #1, held during AbGradCon 2014 at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Credit: NASA
The Regional Heat #3 for Season 3 of the FameLab competition will be held at Stony Brook University on Long Island from April 16-17, 2015.
Are you an early career scientist who is passionate about science communication…or simply looking to improve your skills? Visit the FameLab site for more information and to register!
This regional heat is being hosted in partnership with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.
Source: [FameLab]March 24, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Timothy Lyons (left) and Ariel Anbar (right) have been named Geochemistry Fellows. Credit: NASA Astrobiology
Timothy Lyons is the NASA Astrobiology Institute Team PI at the University of California, Riverside. Ariel Anbar, Principal Investigator (PI) in the Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology (Exo/Evo) element of the NASA Astrobiology Program, is also a Co-Investigator for the NAI team at UC Riverside.March 16, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
On the radio program Big Picture Science, David Grinspoon recently joined a discussion about the impacts of humankind on planet Earth. Right now, the Earth is in a geological epoch known as the Holocene. However, some scientists believe we have moved into a new epoch dubbed the 'Anthropocene,’ or the age of man.
To listen to the program, visit: https://radio.seti.org/episodes/Surviving_the_Anthropocene
David Grinspoon is a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, and was the first Baruch S. Blumberg NASA-Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology. During his time as chair, Grinspoon studied the ...March 11, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
FameLab regionals in December 2014 at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, CA. Credit: NASA Astrobiology
Calling all early career scientists! Passionate about science? Love to Communicate. . .or want to learn how? Been wanting to do FameLab but couldn’t make any of the in-person heats? THIS is your chance… join us for the FameLab USA Season 3 Online Competition! Submit a YouTube video of your 3-minute, powerpoint-free presentation by March 16th, then join our live, online event on March 18th to get feedback directly from the judges. Can’t make it on the 18th? We’ll email you a ...March 9, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
Passionate about science? Love to communicate…or want to learn how? Missed the in-person regional heats? THIS is your chance. Join us for the FameLab USA Season 3 Online Competition!
Unlike our in-person events, in this heat you will record yourself giving a 3-minute, powerpoint-free presentation, create a YouTube video of it, and submit that to us no later than March 16th. Then join us for the live, online judging event on March 18th to receive feedback from the judges. We are also planning a live, online science communications workshop, still TBA.
More info, and plenty of how-to’s, tips ...February 25, 2015 / Written by: Daniella Scalice
Bill Bottke of the Department of Space Studies at the Southwest Research Institute. Credit: SwRI
Bill Bottke of Southwest Research Institute will be presenting the next NAI Director’s Seminar on February 23, 2015, at 1pm Pacific Standard Time. A link to the web broadcast will be available here at 12:45pm PST on Feb 23.
Bottke’s talk, “Early Solar System Bombardment and Earth’s Habitability,” will discuss insights about the bombardment history of the early Earth based on a new bombardment model for the inner Solar System that stretches from Mercury to the asteroid belt.
For more information ...February 19, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
A NASA portrait of Dr. Baruch Blumberg in 1999. Image credit: NASA/Tom Trower
Baruch S. “Barry” Blumberg, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was the founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). When Blumberg passed away suddenly of a heart attack at age 85 on April 5, 2011, it was a huge loss for the astrobiology community.
This month, the journal Astrobiology features a tribute to Barry Blumberg written by current NAI Director, Carl Piltcher. The article is freely available on the journal’s website, and provides a background of Blumberg’s remarkable life ...January 9, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Overlay of sketch on photograph from above to assist in the identification of the structures on the rock bed surface. Image credit: Noffke (2015). Courtesy of ASTROBIOLOGY, published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
A careful study of images taken by the NASA rover Curiosity has revealed intriguing similarities between ancient sedimentary rocks on Mars and structures shaped by microbes on Earth. The findings suggest, but do not prove, that life may have existed earlier on the Red Planet. The photos were taken as Curiosity drove through the Gillespie Lake outcrop in Yellowknife Bay.
The study was supported ...
Abstract submissions for the 2015 Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) have now closed. For details, visit the AbSciCon 2015 website at: http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/abscicon2015/
AbSciCon 2015 is the next in a series of conferences organized by researchers within the interdisciplinary field of astrobiology. Scientists from around the world will gather in Chicago, Illinois, from June 15-19, 2015, to report new research findings and plan for astrobiology’s future. The theme of AbSciCon 2015 is “Habitability, Habitable Worlds, and Life.”
Other key dates include:
May 1, 2015 – Program and abstracts available
June 15–19, 2015 – Astrobiology Science Conference ...December 20, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Clouds that are probably composed of ice crystals and possibly supercooled water droplets were caught in images by NASA’s Opportunity rover. Credit: NASA/JPL/Texas A&M/Cornell
Curiosity celebrated two years on Mars on August 5, 2014, and is continuing its progress across the surface of the planet. In a tweet on September 2, 2014, Curiosity shared its view of the path ahead and proclaimed, “Head for the hills! I’m driving towards these hills on Mars to do geology work & also search for clouds.”
In this news post from astrobio.net, Dr. Robert M. Haberle, Planetary Scientist at NASA Ames and a team member for the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), explains why clouds on Mars are relevant to Curiosity’s astrobiology goals.Curiosity tweeted this image from the surface of Mars on Sept 2, 2014. Credit: NASA, @MarsCuriosity
REMS is an environmental monitoring station and was contributed to the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission by the Centro de Astrobiologia (CAB) in Spain, one of the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s international partners.
Source: [astrobio.net]September 8, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Deadline to submit Session Topics is October 22, 2014
The Astrobiology Science Conference 2015 (AbSciCon2015) Science Organizing Committee is soliciting community input for Session Topics and Session Organizers. Given the wide variety of disciplinary tools and topics to be presented at the conference, the success of AbSciCon 2015 will be built upon the community’s involvement in the organization of topical sessions. Community members are urged to be proactive in proposing sessions, merging similar session topics, and organizing abstracts into selected sessions.
To submit a session topic and to see the list of submissions visit: http://www.hou.usra.edu ...September 3, 2014 / Written by: Julie Fletcher
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
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