NAI

  1. NAI Scientists Receive Awards and Distinctions


    Geronimo Villanueva receives the Harold C. Urey Prize, Yuk Yung receives the Gerard P. Kuiper Prize, and Andrew Knoll becomes a Foreign Member of the Royal Society. Credits: NASA Goddard/Jose Aponte, Geronimo Villanueva receives the Harold C. Urey Prize, Yuk Yung receives the Gerard P. Kuiper Prize, and Andrew Knoll becomes a Foreign Member of the Royal Society. Credits: NASA Goddard/Jose Aponte, DPS AAS, Royal Society.

    Two NAI Recipients of 2015 Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) Awards
    [Source: Divison of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society]

    Geronimo Villanueva of the NAI CAN 7 NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center team received the Harold C. Urey Prize, which recognizes early career scientists who have made outstanding achievements in planetary science. His work has ranged from instrument design to spectroscopy to observational astronomy ...

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  1. NAI Welcomes New International Partner, the Japan AstroBiology Consortium (JABC)


    Please join us in welcoming the newest Affiliate International Partner of the NAI, the Japan AstroBiology Consortium (JABC). The Earth-Life Science Institute at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences in Japan have partnered to establish the JABC, whose mission is to develop the field of astrobiology, establish a community of researchers in astrobiology, support young researchers, and to be the hub for international relationships. Other organizations in Japan conducting research related to astrobiology are expected to join the JABC in the future.

    For more information, see https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/nai/international-partners/japan-astrobiology-consortium-jabc/.

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  1. 2014 Annual Science Report


    The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) 2014 Annual Science Report is now available. The report details the accomplishments of NAI members from the September 2013 to December 2014 reporting period, including Team Executive Summaries, research progress and findings, and publication citations focused around compelling questions in astrobiology. Of particular note are several interdisciplinary and integrated science themes that reflect numerous inter-team collaborations. Reports also include field site information, seminars and workshops, education program overviews, and more.

    Browse the 2014 Annual Science Report by NAI Team reports, NAI Central reports, Astrobiology Roadmap Objectives, or by using the search function to explore the ...

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  1. ‘Bathtub Rings’ Suggest Titan’s Dynamic Seas


    Cassini VIMS/RADAR hybrid image of filled and dry lakes south of Titan’s methane sea Ligeia Mare. Blue arrows indicate current lakes, while the white arrows point to evaporates on dry lakes. Credit: N Cassini VIMS/RADAR hybrid image of filled and dry lakes south of Titan’s methane sea Ligeia Mare. Blue arrows indicate current lakes, while the white arrows point to evaporates on dry lakes. Credit: NASA / JPL / UA

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    Saturn’s moon, Titan, is the only object in the Solar System other than Earth known to have liquid on its surface. While most of the hydrocarbon lakes are found around the poles, the dry regions near the equator contain signs of evaporated material left behind like rings on a bathtub that, when combined with geological features, suggest that the ...

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  1. Nathalie Cabrol to Lead Carl Sagan Center at SETI Institute


    Nathalie Cabrol, PI of NAI SETI Team, appointed to lead Carl Sagan Center at SETI Institute. Credit: SETI Institute Nathalie Cabrol, PI of NAI SETI Team, appointed to lead Carl Sagan Center at SETI Institute. Credit: SETI Institute

    Source: [SETI Institute]

    The SETI Institute announces the appointment of Nathalie Cabrol as the lead for its multidisciplinary research programs into the nature and distribution of life beyond Earth. She will head the Institute’s Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe.

    Cabrol, who has been with the Institute since 1998, is an astrobiologist specializing in planetary science, and is deeply involved in efforts to explore and characterize Mars. She also develops exploration strategies for the moons ...

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  1. Organics Sniffed Out on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko


    Historic image of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko half an hour before Philae's first landing. Credits: European Space Agency/Rosetta/Navcam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0. Historic image of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko half an hour before Philae's first landing. Credits: European Space Agency/Rosetta/Navcam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.

    While the Rosetta spacecraft orbits the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet, the Philae lander, deployed from Rosetta on November 2014, has gathered data on the surface of the comet that indicate the potential existence of prebiotic organics during the early solar system.

    The lander’s Cometary Sampling and Composition (COSAC) evolved-gas analyzer utilized a “sniffing” mode, allowing molecules in the atmosphere to passively enter the instrument and then ionizing and accelerating the molecules for mass spectral ...

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  1. New Probe Gives Closer Look at Oldest Terrestrial Material


    Cathodoluminescence image of a 400-μm zircon and the 3-D map made by atom-probe tomography of a group of ~10-nm clusters of radiogenic atoms of 207Pb (yellow) and 206Pb (green) from the core of this c Cathodoluminescence image of a 400-μm zircon and the 3-D map made by atom-probe tomography of a group of ~10-nm clusters of radiogenic atoms of 207Pb (yellow) and 206Pb (green) from the core of this crystal. Credit: John Valley, University of Wisconsin.

    A recently designed probe takes the analysis of Hadean-age zircon to the level of a single atom, broadening scientists’ understanding of the ancient mineral and its relation to the history of Earth.

    In his Presidential Address to the Mineralogical Society of America last July, John Valley of the NAI Can 6 Team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison wrote about ...

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  1. 2015 NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Program Fellows Announced


    NASA Postdoctoral Program (http://nasa.orau.org/postdoc/) NASA Postdoctoral Program (http://nasa.orau.org/postdoc/)

    The NASA Astrobiology Program is pleased to welcome four new Fellows to the NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (NPP). They are:

    Ashleigh Hood ”Integrated geochemical-petrographic insights on Earth’s oxygenation from Precambrian carbonates”
    Advisor: Noah Planavsky (NAI University of California, Riverside Team, Yale University)

    Nagayasu Nakanishi ”Investigating the early evolution of neuronal signaling mechanisms in animals”
    Advisor: Mark Martindale (Exobiology, University of Florida)

    Stephanie Weldon ”Swapping partners mid-dance: Symbiotic replacement in a tightly integrated intrabacterial, intracellular nested mutualism”
    Advisor: John McCutcheon (NAI University of Montana, Missoula team)

    Kristin Woycheese ”Methane and sulfur ...

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  1. Mini-Neptunes Might Host Life Under Right Conditions


    Artist’s impression of Roche lobe overflow in a planet. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Frank Reddy Artist’s impression of Roche lobe overflow in a planet. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Frank Reddy

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    Researchers with the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory Lead Team at the University of Washington have described how mini-Neptune planets could become viable for life around M-Dwarf stars.

    M-dwarfs are cooler than the Sun, meaning any habitable planets around them would have to be much closer to their host star. However, planets in such systems face many hazardous conditions, particularly in the early stages of formation, that could make it difficult for life to take hold.

    The study, published in the ...

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  1. New Method Finds Best Candidates for Telescope Time


    If starlight passing through a planetary atmosphere is blocked by clouds or haze, the resulting spectrum is flat and featureless, and no molecules or potential biomarkers are visible. Credit: Kempton, If starlight passing through a planetary atmosphere is blocked by clouds or haze, the resulting spectrum is flat and featureless, and no molecules or potential biomarkers are visible. Credit: Kempton, E.M.R., 2014, Nature, 513, 493. Used with permission

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    If life exists on planets beyond our Solar System, its presence could be obscured by the haze and clouds in the planet’s atmosphere.

    Even next generation telescopes — such as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as well as ground-based telescopes like the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) — will have a hard time penetrating such hazy worlds ...

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  1. NASA Researchers Find “Frozen” Recipe for Extraterrestrial Vitamin


    A picture of the aluminum plate with a chemical deposit on it. Credits: Karen Smith/NASA Goddard A picture of the aluminum plate with a chemical deposit on it. Credits: Karen Smith/NASA Goddard

    Vitamin B3 could have been made on icy dust grains in space, and later delivered to Earth by meteorites and comets, according to new laboratory experiments by a team of NASA-funded researchers. Vitamin B3, also known as niacin or nicotinic acid, is used to build NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which is essential to metabolism and probably ancient in origin. The result supports a theory that the origin of life may have been assisted by a supply of biologically important molecules produced in space ...

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  1. NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers Bigger, Older Cousin to Earth


    This artist's concept compares Earth (left) to the new planet, called Kepler-452b, which is about 60 percent larger in diameter. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle This artist's concept compares Earth (left) to the new planet, called Kepler-452b, which is about 60 percent larger in diameter. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

    NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another “Earth.”

    The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone — the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting ...

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  1. A Biological Source of Iron in BIFs


    Rocks at Soudan Underground Mine State Park, Minnesota, show banding caused by layers of different minerals in a sample 2.7 billion years old. Credit: University of Wisconsin-Madison, http://news.wisc Rocks at Soudan Underground Mine State Park, Minnesota, show banding caused by layers of different minerals in a sample 2.7 billion years old. Credit: University of Wisconsin-Madison, http://news.wisc.edu/23863

    A new study identifies sources of iron found in Banded Iron Formations (or BIFs) that were formed 2.5 billion years ago. The BIFs are sedimentary deposits formed at the bottom of Precambrian oceans on Earth, and contain distinctive layers of material. BIFs are reddish in color due to the iron they contain, and these deposits are a major source of iron used by humankind today.

    Previously ...

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  1. Advances in Robots Needed to Explore Icy Moons


    Cassini imaging scientists used views like this one to help them identify the source locations for individual jets spurting ice particles, water vapor and trace organic compounds from the surface of S Cassini imaging scientists used views like this one to help them identify the source locations for individual jets spurting ice particles, water vapor and trace organic compounds from the surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Credit: NASA/JPL

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    The discovery of plumes at worlds like Enceladus raises an intriguing question about how best to explore these small, icy bodies. In a recent presentation called “Europa and beyond: Adaptive robotic exploration of planetary plumes,” Nathalie Cabrol of the SETI Institute described a 'Swiss army knife’ approach in developing instruments and exploration strategies for icy moons in the Solar ...

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  1. Icy Material on Pluto and Charon


    As New Horizons closes in on Pluto and Charon, it may be able to detect signs that one or both objects boast icy plumes, either now or in their past. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Phy As New Horizons closes in on Pluto and Charon, it may be able to detect signs that one or both objects boast icy plumes, either now or in their past. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    A new study of objects in the outer reaches of the solar system suggests that bodies like Pluto and Charon have the potential to support eruptions of icy material. The research indicates that if cryo-volcanism has occurred on Pluto, Charon’s surface could retain evidence of such events.

    The research was published online in the journal ...

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