February 2007

On February 16th, NAI scientists were featured in a live broadcast of NPR's Science Friday. Tune in to the podcast to hear how astrobiologists are following the water and the energy, trying to target those parts of the planet most likely to harbor life. Plus, learn how the rovers Spirit and Opportunity have changed our ideas about the Martian environment, and what evidence future missions will look for. [source: NAI Newsletter]

New research from NAI's SETI Institute Team published online in Icarus today outlines the empirical range of salt concentrations permitted for Europa's ocean. Solutions within the range imply high, near-saturation salt concentrations and require a Europan ice shell of less than 15 km thick, with a best fit at 4 km ice thickness. The paper examines the implications for subsurface habitability. [source: NAI Newsletter]

Researchers from NAI's Carnegie Institution of Washington and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Teams have a new paper in Nature describing the infrared spectrum of exoplanet HD 209458b as obtained by the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope. Scientists from NAI's University of Arizona and Alumni Virtual Planetary Laboratory Teams are contributing authors on a similar paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters which details the spectrum of exoplanet HD 189733b.

Vienna, Austria, 15 - 20 April 2007: Session Description: Exo/Astrobiology - the study of the origins, early evolution, distribution and destiny of life - is a multidisciplinary science which encompasses, amongst others, the disciplines of chemistry, biology, geology, palaeontology, atmospheric physics, planetary sciences, astronomy and astrophysics. With the wealth of new information arriving from surface and orbital missions, there is plenty of fuel to fire our imaginations regarding the search for traces of past or present life on Mars. We therefore invite papers for this session on all aspects of astrobiology, especially those having particular relevance for upcoming and planned Mars missions, such as the European ExoMars mission (2013) and NASA's Astrobiology Field Laboratory (AFL-possibly in 2016).

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin announced Monday that Dr. S. Alan Stern will be the agency's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, effective April 2. Stern succeeds Dr. Mary L. Cleave who announced her retirement.

Pilot episodes of a new science television series, including one on "Extreme Virology," are available for viewing online. Produced by WIRED SCIENCE, a collaboration between WIRED Magazine and KCET/Los Angeles, these pilots may evolve into a larger PBS science program featuring astrobiology science topics. Check them out at: [Source: Astrobiology Institute Newsletter]

The following new papers have been published recently by NAI members. These and other recent NAI funded research are presented on the NAI member portal and collected in the NAI Research Highlights Archive - In this archive, you can link to the papers and any press materials that may have been generated about them.

The NAI Minority Institution Research Support (MIRS) Program provides opportunities for researchers from qualified Minority Institutions to initiate joint partnerships with researchers in the field of astrobiology. The NAI-MIRS program provides summer sabbaticals, follow-up support, and travel opportunities for faculty and students from Minority Institutions.

The NAI Postdoctoral Fellowship Program provides opportunities for Ph.D. scientists and engineers of unique promise and ability to perform research on problems largely of their own choosing, yet compatible with the research interests of NASA and the member teams of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. The next award cycle in which the NAI will participate has a March 1, 2007 application deadline. For additional information about the program see . [Source: Astrobiology Institute Newsletter]

Astrobiology Summer Institute for Undergraduate Science Majors - June 25-29, 2007, University of Washington, Seattle

This June the University of Washington alumni team is sponsoring a week-long Astrobiology Summer Institute aimed at underrepresented minorities in the sciences. All expenses are paid for undergraduate science majors who are finishing their 2nd or 3rd year. Deadline for applications is ideally 15 Feb., but those received a week or two late may still be eligible for consideration.

Please join me in welcoming John Evans as a new member of the NAI Central staff. John is taking over the reins from NAI Resource Analyst, Kaye Faria, who retired this month. Kaye has been at the Institute from its earliest days; we appreciate all of her contributions, and wish her well in her new adventures.

The Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology, a partnership between NAI and the American Philosophical Society (APS), is open to field studies in any area of interest to astrobiology. Grants may be used for travel and related expenses, including field equipment, up to $5,000. Applications will be reviewed by a committee that includes members of the NAI, the APS, and the wider science community as needed.

Speaker: Tim Raub (Yale University), Date/Time: Monday, February 26, 2007 11AM PST

Background: Using atmospheric chemical models of a Snowball Earth, scientists from NAI's Alumni Virtual Planetary Laboratory Team showed that, during long and severe glacial intervals, a weak hydrological cycle coupled with photochemical reactions involving water vapor would give rise to the sustained production of hydrogen peroxide. The peroxide, upon release from melting ice into the oceans and atmosphere at the end of the snowball event, could mediate global oxidation events.

  • Modeling Other Earths, Astrobiology Magazine