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 ...November 30, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
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 ...November 20, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
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 ...November 19, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...November 17, 2015 / Written by: Miki Huynh
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 ...November 13, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
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 ...November 12, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...November 3, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
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.
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 ...October 29, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Image Source: NASA
Source: [University of Washington]
Scientists have developed a habitability index to rank exoplanets and their potential for increasing our knowledge of life in the universe, described in the forthcoming research paper, “Comparative Habitability of Transiting Exoplanets,” to be published in the Astrophysics Journal. The ranking system created at the Virtual Planetary Laboratory (VPL) will help narrow down which exoplanet candidates in a habitability zone present the best transit data and planetary properties for future observation.
A press release was published by UW Today.
The study was funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute.October 23, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
Louis Allamandola receives the 2015 Presidential Rank of Meritorious Senior Professional. Image source: NASA.
On October 7, 2015, Louis Allamandola was given the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Senior Professional during the 2015 Presidental Rank and NASA Honor Awards Ceremony for Ames Research Center. The award is one of the highest honors granted by the US government.
Allamondola is the founder of the Astrophysics and Astrochemistry Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center, and he is known for his revolutionary work creating laboratory settings that mimic conditions in deep space that have lead to increased understanding of the chemistry, composition and spectroscopy ...October 19, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
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 ...October 14, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...October 14, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
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:
October 9, 2015 / Posted by: Shige Abe
- Identifying abiotic sources of organic compounds
- Synthesis and function of macromolecules in the origin of life ...
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.October 9, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
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 ...October 7, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
- February 17 - NExSS/NAI/NSF Joint Workshop: Upstairs Downstairs: Consequences of Internal Evolution for the Habilitability and Detectability of Life on Extrasolar Planets
- February 29 - Abstract Submission Deadline for IberiCos 2016
- March 11 - Early Registration Deadline for International Conference on Permafrost 2016 Session: Planetary Permafrost and Earth Analogues
- March 14 - Registration Deadline for IberiCos 2016
- March 15 - Abstract Submission Deadline for International Symposium and Workshop on Astrochemistry
- March 15 - Renewal Deadline for NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF) Program for 2016-2017 Academic Year
- NAI 2014 Annual Science Report