November 2007

Speaker: Geoff Marcy (University of California, Berkeley)
Date/Time: Monday, December 3, 2007 11:00 AM PST

The measured masses and orbits of the 200 secure exoplanets within 200 parsecs reveal the processes of formation and subsequent dynamics. (One parsec is the distance at which one astronomical unit subtends an angle of 1 second of arc.) Several planets reveal information on their cores and interiors. Multiple-planet systems, especially those in resonances, inform us about migration, scattering, and capture. Planets from 5-14 Earth masses are now detectable, and several have been found. The Kepler Mission and a new 2.4-m "Automated Planet Finder" telescope at Lick Observatory portend the detection of rocky planets.

For more information and connection information:

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

December 3rd A reminder, the abstract submission deadline for AbSciCon has been extended to December 3rd. For more information, see:

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

AbGradCon 08, an astrobiology conference for early-career astrobiologists, will take place on 13-14 April 2008 in Santa Clara, CA, USA (immediately before AbSciCon). AbGradCon is open to graduate students studying subjects relevant to astrobiology, and to those who have received their PhD in such subjects within the previous two years. Registration will be free and will be open shortly. There will be some funding available for travel grants. For more information, visit the AbGradCon website at [Source: NAI Newsletter]

NAI Central is pleased to announce the news that its recent proposal to the NASA Science Mission Directorate E/PO Program entitled "NASA and the Navajo Nation 2: The Moon" has been selected for funding. This award will enable the continued collaboration with leaders and educators from the Navajo Nation toward the production of educational materials which bring together astrobiology science and Navajo cultural knowledge, in particular of the Moon. For more information, please contact Daniella Scalice,

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

Yellowstone research conducted by astrobiologists from NAI's new Montana State Team is highlighted in the new 30-minute film called "Invisible Yellowstone," produced by MSU's Thermal Biology Institute and MSU's Science and Natural History filmmaking program. Footage from the film was featured in an episode of National Geographic's Wild Chronicles television program, which can be previewed by visiting the TBI webpage:, and selecting #2 TBI Wild Chronicles. It is also available via DVD by contacting Susan Kelly at

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

Researchers from NAI's University of Hawai'i Team and their colleagues have a new paper in Geobiology reviewing recent work on the climatic, geochemical, and ecological events that preceded animal fossils, considering their portent for metazoan evolution. They also consider recent published research on the nature and chronology of the earliest fossil record of metazoans, and on the molecular-based analysis that yielded dates older than the last 35 million years of the Precambrian for the appearance of major animal groups.

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

With support from NAI Teams at the Carnegie Institution of Washington and UC Berkeley, researchers at the American Type Culture Collection and their colleagues have a new paper in PLOS One describing a novel lineage of proteobacteria which are dominant in iron-rich hydrothermal vent sites on the Loihi Seamount near Hawai'i. They form a unique morphological structure which could serve as a fossil biomarker.

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

This amendment reinstates a previously deferred program element in Appendix C.19 of ROSES-2007 now entitled "Astrobiology Science and Technology Instrument Development, including Concept Studies for Small Payloads and Satellites" (ASTID). This program element requests proposals to develop instrumentation capabilities to help meet Astrobiology science requirements on future space flight missions as well as unique Astrobiology science objectives on Earth.

The goal of research funded under the interdisciplinary P2C2 solicitation is to utilize key geological, chemical, and biological records of climate system variability to provide insights into the mechanisms and rate of change that characterized Earth's past climate variability, the sensitivity of Earth's climate system to changes in forcing, and the response of key components of the Earth system to these changes.

Dear ASGSB members: We have received a Dear Colleague notification from ESA that our joint international meeting is proceeding on schedule. A call will come shortly for abstract submission. This is a rare opportunity to share our research and strengthen our interactions in the global community. Please try to find a way to participate in person at our 24th Annual ASGSB Meeting to demonstrate the collective spirit and importance of international collaboration in space-related science.

Danny A. Riley President, ASGSB,

Dear ASGSB Members,

I am pleased to announce that the membership of the ASGSB has successfully voted electronically for the first time and elected Jeffery R. Alberts President-Elect and 5 new Governing Board members: Ted A. Bateman, J. David Dickman, Melissa Kirven-Brooks, Stephen J. Moorman (completing the term of Diana Jennings), and Muneo Takaoki.

We greatly appreciate the willingness and efforts of all of the members who ran for office, including Marshall Porterfield, Elison Blancaflor, Gioia Massa, and Bruce Yost, to contribute to the governance and mission of the Society. Special thanks for service is given to members who rotated off the Board: Simon Gilroy, Diana Jennings, David Klaus, April Ronca, Paul Todd, and Wenonah Vercoutere. The Board also approved David K. Chapman as Secretary-Treasurer, who kindly consented to continue dealing with the challenges of this position. I look forward to working with the newly elected members and members at large as we strengthen the role of our Society in advancing America's leadership in space-related science.

Danny A. Riley
President, ASGSB

Planets & Life: The Emerging Science of Astrobiology Woodruff Sullivan & John Baross (eds.). Cambridge Univ. Pr. (2007) Twenty-eight chapters (650 pp) by experts on all aspects of astrobiology; designed for seniors and graduate student science majors and professionals who want to learn the basics outside their own field; also appropriate as a textbook for astrobiology courses. For more information: [Source: NAI Newsletter]

NAI's Astrobiology Drilling Program supported researchers in 2004 to obtain subsurface core samples from the Hamersley Basin in Western Australia. Those samples, representing the time just before the Great Oxidation Event, have been analyzed, and two research papers detailing the results (Anbar, et al. and Kaufman, et al.) appear in September 28, 2007 issue of Science. Both groups found unexpected, correlated changes that reveal the presence of small but significant amounts of O2 in the environment 2.5 billion years ago, ~50-100 milion years before the Great Oxidation Event, and a shift from lower O2 abundance prior to that time. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

The Royal Society announces the availability of a special themed issue - Towards the Artificial Cell, organized and edited by Ricard V. Sole, Steen Rasmussen and Mark Bedau. The special issue, available at, provides entirely new approaches to the problem of protocell reproduction. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Nov 5 7, 2007, Kauai, HI

This interdisciplinary meeting is aimed at understanding the chronology of the processes in the early solar system as revealed by meteorites. This includes the astrophysical setting of solar system formation, the origin of short-lived radioisotopes, and the chronology of nebular and asteroidal processes: formation of chondrules, refractory inclusions and matrices of primitive chondrites, timing of accretion and thermal processing (aqueous alteration, thermal metamorphism, and igneous differentiation) of asteroids and comets.

For more information: [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Speaker: Ariel Anbar (Arizona State University)
Date/Time: Monday, November 5, 2007 11:00 AM PST

Abstract: Many lines of evidence point to a rapid rise of atmospheric O2 between 2.45 - 2.22 billion years ago (Ga), a transition often referred to as the Great Oxidation Event (GOE). The cause of the GOE is unknown. It could have been an immediate consequence of the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis. Alternatively, O2 biogenesis may be ancient and the GOE a consequence of an abiotic shift in the balance of oxidants and reductants at the Earth's surface that crossed a critical threshold at that time. In the latter case, oxygenic photosynthesis could have evolved long before the GOE. This debate can be addressed by looking for evidence of localized or short-lived concentrations of O2 before 2.45 Ga.

The NAI Icy Worlds Focus Group met at NASA Ames Research Center on September 20 and 21, 2007. Discussions included a review of the astrobiology potential of four flagship missions to: Europa, Titan, Enceladus, and the Jupiter System. Ron Greeley, the Focus Group co-chair, will share the assessments of the Focus Group with the four mission study leads and NASA Headquarters. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

In Science, astrobiologists from NAI's University of Hawai'i Team review the prospects for discovering smaller planets more like Earth, some of which may even have conditions suitable for life. Improved techniques and the ability to monitor fainter stars now enable astronomers to discover smaller planets, particularly planets orbiting much closer to their host star than the Earth is to the Sun. This review article is based on an NAI-supported session at the May, 2007 meeting of the American Astronomical Society. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Researchers from NAI's Carnegie Institution of Washington Team have a paper in Nature describing evidence that Earth's Mesoarchean atmosphere (3.2 and 2.8 Gya) possessed very low amounts oxygen. These findings contrast with prior claims that Earth's atmosphere underwent its first rise in oxygen during the Mesoarchean, and indicate that oxygen first rose above parts per million levels sometime between 2.45 and 2.4 billion years ago. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

NAI's Marine Biological Laboratory Team has a new paper in Science detailing aspects of population structure for microbial communities at two neighboring hydrothermal vents. Using environmental DNA sequencing techniques, they found the two populations reflect the geochemical conditions of each vent. [Source: NAI Newsletter]