NAI

  1. Looking Back 3.8 Billion Years Into the Root of the “Tree of Life”


    The ribosome grew by accretion of new RNA onto old RNA in a process reminiscent of nested Russian dolls. The most ancient part of the ribosome contains small RNA fragments and is represented by the sm The ribosome grew by accretion of new RNA onto old RNA in a process reminiscent of nested Russian dolls. The most ancient part of the ribosome contains small RNA fragments and is represented by the smallest doll. Ever more recent additions to the ribosome increased its functionality, and are represented on dolls of increasing size. The largest doll displays the ribosomal RNA that is shared by all current forms of life. Credit: Nick Hud, Georgia Tech.

    [Source: Georgia Tech]

    NASA-funded researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are tapping information in the cells of all life on Earth, and using ...

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  1. NAI Scientist Appointed Early Career Chair


    Photo credit: USC/Matt Meindl Photo credit: USC/Matt Meindl

    [Source: University of Southern California]

    Moh El-Naggar, a member of the NAI Life Underground team at the University of Southern California has been appointed the first Robert D. Beyer Early Career Chair in Natural Sciences at USC. The appointment, designed specifically for early career scholars, enables the chair holders “to be risk takers because they now have an underpinning of support that gives them the freedom to do the extra work we really expect of great faculty,” says USC Provost Michael Quick.

    El-Naggar heads the NanoBio Lab and is known as pioneer in the area ...

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  1. Free Oxygen in the Late Archean


    Bands of the late Archean Mt. McRae Shale from the ABDP-9 core. The drill project was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Program and the National Science Foundation. Image Credit: Arizona State Univer Bands of the late Archean Mt. McRae Shale from the ABDP-9 core. The drill project was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Program and the National Science Foundation. Image Credit: Arizona State University photo by Tim Trumble

    A study on selenium (Se) isotopes in Australia’s Mount McRae Shale supports the theory that oxygenic photosynthesis originated long before the Great Oxidation Event (GOE), which occurred around 2.3 billion years ago. The Mount McRae Shale is a 2.5 billion-year-old formation and holds a record of enrichment and abundance of Se isotopes. The formation provides a means of studying levels of oxygen ...

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  1. Call for Letters of Application for Membership on NASA’s Science Definition Team for Ice Giants Mission Studies


    Membership on NASA’s Science Definition Team for Ice Giants Mission Studies

    Application Deadline: December 31, 2015

    The Planetary Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate plans to conduct a generic study of mission options, including science and technology options, for exploring the Ice Giant planets. The study will build upon, but not be limited to, the National Research Council’s Planetary Science Decadal Survey, entitled “Visions and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022” (available at http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/docs/Vision_and_Voyages-FINAL.pdf”); the intent of this study is to provide information for the deliberative process ...

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  1. A New Model for Homochirality


    A computer simulation with red as the "right hand" chiral molecule and blue as the "left hand" chiral molecule, showing homochirality emerging over time. Image credit: Nigel Goldenfeld Lab, University A computer simulation with red as the "right hand" chiral molecule and blue as the "left hand" chiral molecule, showing homochirality emerging over time. Image credit: Nigel Goldenfeld Lab, University of Illinois.

    A team of NAI scientists working at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) looked at the chirality—the mirrored or “right” and “left” hand versions of the same molecular structure that results in two functionally distinct molecules—of amino acids and sugars. They present a new way to understand how homochirality occurs, where one mirrored side or hand outcompetes the other. The press release is ...

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  1. NAI Director’s Seminar Series: Ironing Out Life in the Universe


    Ironing Out Life and the Universe
    Presenters: Clark Johnson and Loren Williams
    When: November 16, 2015 1:00PM PST

    Iron is unusually abundant in the universe considering its place on the Periodic Table because it represents the “end of the line” of nuclear fusion. In the interior of terrestrial planets, iron exists in reduced form as Fe(0) and Fe(II), yet, on the surface of Earth today, the oxidized form, Fe(III), is stable. Looking to the very early Earth, life originated and first proliferated in an anoxic environment where reduced iron was benign, abundant, and soluble. We hypothesize ...

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  1. Aerosol Formation on Titan


    Sunset on Saturn’s moon Titan reveals the atmosphere around the moon as seen from the night side with NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI Sunset on Saturn’s moon Titan reveals the atmosphere around the moon as seen from the night side with NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

    A recent laboratory study provides new insight into the atmospheric production of aerosols on Titan. Scientists used photochemistry and several mixtures of methane (CH4) and nitrogen gas (N2) to generate analogs of organic aerosols found in Titan’s atmosphere. The team analyzed the fractionation of carbon and nitrogen found in the aerosols they produced, providing clues as to how organic aerosols on Titan could ask as a sink for these major elements.

    Studying how ...

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  1. NASA Mission Reveals Speed of Solar Wind Stripping Martian Atmosphere


    Artist’s rendering of a solar storm hitting Mars and stripping ions from the planet's upper atmosphere. Credits: NASA/GSFC Artist’s rendering of a solar storm hitting Mars and stripping ions from the planet's upper atmosphere. Credits: NASA/GSFC

    Source: [NASA]

    NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission has identified the process that appears to have played a key role in the transition of the Martian climate from an early, warm and wet environment that might have supported surface life to the cold, arid planet Mars is today.

    MAVEN data have enabled researchers to determine the rate at which the Martian atmosphere currently is losing gas to space via stripping by the solar wind. The findings ...

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  1. Cassini Plunged Into Icy Plumes of Enceladus


    Illustration of the interior of Saturn's moon Enceladus showing a global liquid water ocean between its rocky core and icy crust. Image Credit: JPL Illustration of the interior of Saturn's moon Enceladus showing a global liquid water ocean between its rocky core and icy crust. Image Credit: JPL

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    The Cassini spacecraft took a daring plunge into the icy geysers of Saturn’s moon Enceladus last week in search of telltale signs of a habitable environment. The encounter with the mysterious plume lasted only tens of seconds as Cassini hurtled past at a speed of about 19,000 miles per hour, yet in these critical moments up to 10,000 particles per second were sampled and identified using the probe’s ...

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  1. Calibrating a Mass Spec for Studying Chemical Evolution


    The study focues on two calibrant series, polyalanine and polymalic acid. Credit: Forsythe et al. 2015 The study focues on two calibrant series, polyalanine and polymalic acid. Credit: Forsythe et al. 2015

    A recent study from the Center for Chemical Evolution will improve the accuracy and precision of data obtained by a form of mass spectrometry known as traveling-wave ion mobility-mass spectrometry.

    Mass spectrometry is a prolific technique in chemistry that is used to study the chemical makeup of samples. Ion mobility spectrometry is a method for separating ionized molecules in the gas phase based on their molecular size and shape instead of their mass. For example, if two molecules had the same mass, but one ...

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  1. FameLab USA: Semi-Final in San Francisco


    Participants of the FameLab Semi-Final Competition at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco on November 2, 2015. Photo credit: Ian Chin. Participants of the FameLab Semi-Final Competition at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco on November 2, 2015. Photo credit: Ian Chin.

    Ten of the best famelabbers of Season 3 gathered in San Francisco this week as part of the Bay Area Science Festival. As the crowd cheered them on, each one took the stage for 3 minutes and explained their research to a panel of judges—from ant behavior, to the origins of life in the Universe, to using a dust made from diamonds to purify drinking water!

    The winner is a climate scientist—Ilissa Ocko of the Environmental Defense ...

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  1. Dating Meteor Impacts Requires More Data


    Lunar zircon brought back by astronauts from the Apollo 17 mission. Photo credit: Apollo 17/Nicholas E. Timms. Lunar zircon brought back by astronauts from the Apollo 17 mission. Photo credit: Apollo 17/Nicholas E. Timms.

    A new study of zircon calls to question the dating methods and limited evidence that have been used to assume the dates of meteor crashes on the early moon and Earth. The story was published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    Scientists at UW-Madison looked at zircon from the Vredefort crater in South Africa where the meteor collision is estimated to have occurred around 2 billion years ago. While the zircon showed signs of shock from impact, the observed ages did not reflect ...

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  1. Early Results From Cassini Flyby


    This unprocessed view of Saturn's moon Enceladus was acquired by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a close flyby of the icy moon on Oct. 28, 2015. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute This unprocessed view of Saturn's moon Enceladus was acquired by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a close flyby of the icy moon on Oct. 28, 2015. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

    Source: [NASA]

    NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has begun transmitting its latest images of Saturn’s icy, geologically active moon Enceladus, acquired during the dramatic October 28 flyby in which the probe passed about 30 miles (49 kilometers) above the moon’s south polar region. The spacecraft will continue transmitting its data from the encounter for the next several days.

    “Cassini’s stunning images are providing us a quick look at Enceladus ...

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  1. New NASA Study Reveals Origin of Organic Matter in Apollo Lunar Samples


    Astronaut Alan L. Bean, Lunar Module pilot for the Apollo 12 lunar landing mission holds a container filled with lunar soil collected while exploring the lunar surface. Astronaut Charles "Pete" Conrad Astronaut Alan L. Bean, Lunar Module pilot for the Apollo 12 lunar landing mission holds a container filled with lunar soil collected while exploring the lunar surface. Astronaut Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr., commander, who took this picture on November 20, 1969, is reflected in the helmet visor. Credit: NASA.

    Source: [NASA]

    A team of NASA-funded scientists has solved an enduring mystery from the Apollo missions to the moon – the origin of organic matter found in lunar samples returned to Earth. Samples of the lunar soil brought back by the Apollo astronauts contain low levels of organic matter in the form ...

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  1. Many Worlds: The Exoplanet Era


    Credit: NExSS Credit: NExSS

    The search for life beyond Earth has gone beyond Mars, Europa and our solar system to the billions of planets now known to orbit distant stars. A new, NASA-sponsored website that will explore the science and scientists of this cutting-edge and fast-growing field debuts today (Tues) at the address www.manyworlds.space.

    The site grew out of NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) initiative, an interdisciplinary endeavor to help differentiate between planets in the Universe that are 'habitable’ and those that are 'inhabited.’ The goal of NExSS is to bring together researchers from the different communities ...

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