NAI

  1. Cassini Begins Series of Flybys With Close-Up of Saturn Moon 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

    Starting today, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will begin a series of three close encounters with Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus. Images from the flyby are expected to begin arriving two days later, providing the first close-up view of the moon’s north polar region.

    Since Cassini’s 2005 discovery of continually-erupting fountains of icy material on Enceladus, the Saturn moon has become one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for present-day habitable environments. Mission ...

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  1. US House Committee Hearing: Astrobiology and the Search for Life Beyond Earth in the Next Decade


    On September 29, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing entitled Astrobiology and the Search for Life Beyond Earth in the Next Decade. The hearing covered the scientific methods and recent discoveries in astrobiology, addressed the prospects of finding life beyond Earth, and provided an overview of NASA astrobiology programs and the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (“NExSS”) initiative. Testimonies were provided by Dr. Ellen Stofan of NASA, Dr. Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University, Dr. Jacob Bean of the University of Chicago and Dr. Andrew Siemion of SETI Research Center at UC Berkeley.

    Source: [Committee on Science ...

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  1. The Martian Astrobiologist


    (1) The fictional Ares 3 landing site in southern Acidalia Planitia. (2) Carl Sagan Memorial Station (Landing site of the NASA Pathfinder mission) (3) Marwth Vallis (4) Meridiani Planum and the site o (1) The fictional Ares 3 landing site in southern Acidalia Planitia. (2) Carl Sagan Memorial Station (Landing site of the NASA Pathfinder mission) (3) Marwth Vallis (4) Meridiani Planum and the site of NASA's Opportunity rover (5) Schiaparelli crater

    Mars has been a focus of astrobiology and exobiology research since the early days of NASA. Even before the invention of the telescope, Mars captured the imagination of scientists and philosophers who were interested in life’s potential beyond Earth.

    With the Viking landers in the 1970s, Mars became the target of NASA’s first dedicated mission to search for life in ...

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  1. The 2015 Astrobiology Strategy Identifies Priority Research for the NASA Astrobiology Program in the Next Decade


    Over the past two years 800 members of the astrobiology community have contributed, through in person meetings, white papers, a series of webinars and reviews, to define a new strategy for the next decade of astrobiology research. Mary Voytek, the Senior Scientist for Astrobiology, and Michael New, the Astrobiology Discipline Scientist, described the goal of the endeavor to create an “inspirational and aspirational” document. The strategy will replace the 2008 Astrobiology Roadmap.

    The six major research areas in the field of astrobiology described are:

    • Identifying abiotic sources of organic compounds
    • Synthesis and function of macromolecules in the origin of life ...

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  1. A Memorial to Honor Our Astrobiologists


    To celebrate the men and women who have made great and lasting contributions to astrobiology, the NASA Astrobiology Institute has put together a film paying tribute to twelve scientists and leaders who have recently passed away. These individuals are remembered not only for their enduring work in the field, but as astrobiologists who touched the lives of many during their lifetime.

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  1. NASA Astrobiology Debates Online Competition


    Calling all undergrads and grad students!

    The NASA Astrobiology Debates Online Speech Competition (University Division) is an online speech competition in which U.S. college and university undergraduate and graduate students from across the nation will research, deliver, and upload original speeches responding to the 2015-16 NASA Astrobiology Debates Topic:

    Resolved: An overriding ethical obligation to protect and preserve extraterrestrial microbial life and ecosystems should be incorporated into international law.

    Submissions will be judged based on the quality of scholarship and arguments, originality and creativity, and presentation. The competition is now OPEN and students may submit their speeches at anytime ...

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  1. Planets, Life, and the Universe Lecture Series


    The Institute for Planets and Life presents the Planets, Life, and the Universe Lecture Series, an opportunity to hear scientists share their insights on current topics of interest in astrobiology. More information on the series schedule and links to live and archived webcasts are available at: http://www.stsci.edu/institute/smo/ipl/lecture.

    Series Schedule (all lectures are 12:00PM-2:30PM EST)

    2015
    Oct 2 – Steven Benner (Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution) – Searching for, or Creating Ourselves, a Second Example of Life
    Nov 6 – Sarah Hörst (Johns Hopkins University, Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences) – ...

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  1. NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars


    These dark, narrow, 100 meter-long streaks called recurring slope lineae flowing downhill on Mars are inferred to have been formed by contemporary flowing water. Recently, planetary scientists detecte These dark, narrow, 100 meter-long streaks called recurring slope lineae flowing downhill on Mars are inferred to have been formed by contemporary flowing water. Recently, planetary scientists detected hydrated salts on these slopes at Hale crater, corroborating their original hypothesis that the streaks are indeed formed by liquid water. The blue color seen upslope of the dark streaks are thought not to be related to their formation, but instead are from the presence of the mineral pyroxene. The image is produced by draping an orthorectified (Infrared-Red-Blue/Green(IRB)) false color image (ESP_030570_1440) on a Digital Terrain Model (DTM) of the ...

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  1. Autonomous Analysis in the Atacama


    Zoe rover exploring the coastal range of Chile's Atacama desert in 2004. Credit: Carnegie Mellon University Zoe rover exploring the coastal range of Chile's Atacama desert in 2004. Credit: Carnegie Mellon University

    Using the Atacama Desert in Chile as an analog site for Mars, astrobiologists have tested a laser Raman spectrometer in preparation for future robotic missions. The Mars Micro-beam Raman Spectrometer (MMRS) was placed on the Zoë rover and used to analyze drill samples from a depth of one meter below the surface. Data from the MMRS provided information about regional geology and biological activities. With further testing, MMRS could prove to be a useful instrument for inclusion on future space missions. Currently, three ...

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  1. NAI Director’s Seminar Series: Searching for Life on Mars With PIXL and the Mars 2020 Rover Mission


    Image Credit: NASA Image Credit: NASA

    Searching for Life on Mars With PIXL and the Mars 2020 Rover Mission
    Presenter: Abigail Allwood (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
    When: September 21, 2015 1:00PM PDT

    Finding conclusive evidence of primitive microbial life in multi-billion-year-old rocks is exceptionally difficult, as illustrated by doubt surrounding the interpretation of Earth’s earliest fossil record. Seeking evidence of ancient life on Mars is an even greater challenge – one that will be taken up by NASA’s ambitious new 2020 rover mission. 2020 builds on the success of the 2011 Curiosity rover and 2004 Mars Exploration Rovers, and is informed ...

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  1. Cassini Finds Global Ocean in Saturn’s Moon 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: [Jet Propulsion Laboratory]

    A global ocean lies beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s geologically active moon Enceladus, according to new research using data from NASA’s Cassini mission.

    Researchers found the magnitude of the moon’s very slight wobble, as it orbits Saturn, can only be accounted for if its outer ice shell is not frozen solid to its interior, meaning a global ocean must be present.

    The finding implies the fine spray of water vapor ...

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  1. Antarctic Offers Insights Into Life on Mars


    Operation IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger took the photo of Taylor Valley,, one of the Dry Valleys of Antarctica where snow and ice are rare. Credit: NASA Operation IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger took the photo of Taylor Valley,, one of the Dry Valleys of Antarctica where snow and ice are rare. Credit: NASA

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    The cold permafrost of Antarctica houses bacteria that thrive at temperatures below freezing, where water is icy and nutrients are few and far between. Oligotrophs, slow-growing organisms that prefer environments where nutrients are scarce, could provide clues as to how life could exist in the permafrost of Mars. In this vein, scientists have been studying the lethargic bacteria from the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, a row of snow-free valleys that ...

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  1. Barnacles Explain Life at the Extreme


    Stalked barnacles from the vent fields at the Kawio Barat volcano, Western Pacific. Credit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010 Stalked barnacles from the vent fields at the Kawio Barat volcano, Western Pacific. Credit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    Barnacles — a type of marine crustacean — are highly adaptable animals. Unlike many other groups that prefer quieter waters, they like areas with a lot of activity, are hardy against dry spells that sometimes occur in tidal zones, and can even persist in waters that are becoming more acidic due to human pollution.

    Our solar system is full of icy moons – for example, Jupiter’s Europa or Saturn’s Enceladus — that likely have global oceans under their crusts ...

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  1. Astrobiologists Gather for AbSciCon 2015


    Audiences pack the Grand Hall for the AbSciCon 2015 Regional Heat of the FameLab USA competition. Credit: NASA Astrobiology Audiences pack the Grand Hall for the AbSciCon 2015 Regional Heat of the FameLab USA competition. Credit: NASA Astrobiology

    Astrobiologists gathered in Chicago, Illinois, from June 15-19th for the 2015 Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon). Researchers from a multitude of disciplines, and representing institutions from around the world, used the conference as a forum to report new discoveries, share data, initiate and advance collaborative efforts, plan new projects, and educate the next generation of astrobiologists.

    “AbSciCon reflects the importance of astrobiology in supporting NASA’s current and ongoing missions,” said Mary Voytek, Program Scientist for Astrobiology at NASA.

    Peter Doran, the ...

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  1. Watch AbGradCon 2015 Live


    AbGradCon 2015 webcast (July 20-22) available at http://abgradcon.org/remote.html and http://saganet.org/page/saganlive AbGradCon 2015 webcast (July 20-22) available at http://abgradcon.org/remote.html and http://saganet.org/page/saganlive

    The NAI-sponsored Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) 2015 will be held on July 19-23, 2015 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    Those unable to attend in person can still participate via live webcast. The stream will start at 8AM CDT on July 20, 21, and 22 at http://abgradcon.org/remote.html. You can also view the webcast and join in a live chat on the SAGANet site: http://saganet.org/page/saganlive.

    AbGradCon offers a unique opportunity for graduate students and early career ...

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