January 2010

The Astrobiology Summer Science Experience for Teachers, or ASSET, is being held July 18-24, 2010, at San Francisco State University. ASSET will feature presentations by leading astrobiology researchers from the SETI Institute, NASA and the California Academy of Sciences. Scientists will share the latest in astrobiology research on the origin of life on Earth, the extreme conditions in which life exists, Mars exploration, the formation of planetary systems around sun-like stars, and the search for life in the universe.

The 6-day workshop features a combination of cutting-edge science, inquiry-based teaching and learning, and leadership skills development to support teachers and teacher trainers.

Participants receive the entire Voyages Through Time curriculum and complementary astrobiology materials, developed by NASA's Astrobiology Institute, for use in their classrooms.

Applications are due Feb. 12, 2010.

For more information, visit

If you have any questions about this opportunity, please contact Pamela Harman at 650-960-4523 or

Proposal Deadline: February 26, 2010

NASA and The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) are pleased to announce the Cycle 18 Call for Proposals for Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Observations and funding for Archival Research and Theoretical Research programs. Participation in this program is open to all categories of organizations, both domestic and foreign, including educational institutions, profit and nonprofit organizations, NASA Centers, and other Government agencies.

This solicitation for proposals will be open through February 26, 2010 8:00pm EST. The Astronomer's Proposal Tools (APT), which is required for Phase I Proposal Submission will be made available/released for Cycle 18 Phase I use during the 1st week of January 2010. Results of the selection will be announced in early June 2010.

Release Date: January 15, 2010
Notice of Intent to propose Due: February 12, 2010
Proposals Due: April 15, 2010

With this amendment, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Announcement of Opportunity (AO) NNH08ZDA009O, "Stand Alone Missions of Opportunity Notice (SALMON)," is amended to establish a new Program Element Appendix (PEA) as Appendix H6, ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter Instruments Investigations. This PEA solicits Principal Investigator (PI)-led instrument science investigations for the ExoMars 2016 Orbiter mission. The ExoMars 2016 Orbiter mission is a joint ESA-NASA mission. Together, NASA and ESA expect to select sufficient instrument science investigations to address the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter mission science objectives. All proposed investigations must describe a science investigation with goals and objectives that address the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter mission science objectives. Further information on the ExoMars 2016 Orbiter mission is available at

The Guest Observer target policy has been amended. Guest Observers may propose science using any target within the Kepler field of view, subject to the caveats and restrictions provided in Section 2.2 of this appendix.

No change has been made in the due date for this program element. Proposals are due January 15, 2010.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) satellite failed to reach orbit during its launch in February 2009. This mission was designed to obtain highly precise and accurate column average abundances of atmospheric CO2 on a global basis with a 16-day repeat cycle. The goal for these data was to make much improved inferences of the sources and sinks of atmospheric CO2 compared to what is available with the currently existing data sets. NASA is committed to the advancing the science behind the design of OCO in order to be prepared to maximize the use of data from a potential OCO reflight.

NASA has launched an initiative to use its out-of-this-world missions and technology programs to boost summer learning programs. NASA's Summer of Innovation supports President Obama's Educate to Innovate campaign for excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education.

The Summer of Innovation program will work with thousands of middle school teachers and students during multi-week programs in the summer of 2010 to engage students in stimulating math and science-based education programs. NASA's goal is to increase the number of future scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, with an emphasis on broadening participation of underrepresented groups.

Every summer, NAI teams and others host hands-on, in-the-field, in-the-lab workshops for educators. The workshops feature cutting edge astrobiology research delivered by astrobiology scientists and education professionals, as well as inquiry- and standards-based activities ready for your classroom. Below is the list of offerings for Summer 2010.

Dates: July 18 -24, 2010
Location: San Francisco, CA
Applications due: February 12, 2010
The ASSET experience will be intense and exciting, interactive and content rich, with presentations by leading astrobiology researchers from the SETI Institute, NASA, and the California Academy of Sciences. Participants receive the Voyages Through Time curriculum. All expenses covered by grant funds.


Dates: July 26-30, 2010
Location: Pennsylvania State University
Educators will build a simple telescope, utilize telescopes in distant object observations, and learn how modern telescope technology allows us to probe the most distant objects in the universe and may help us discover other habitable planets. [Source NAI Newsletter]

The Microbial Diversity Summer Course of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) welcomes applications from members of the Astrobiology community who are seeking to understand the microbial basis of life. The MBL Microbial Diversity course, offered in Woods Hole, MA, since 1971, provides graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and established investigators with an unequaled opportunity to explore the diversity of the microbial world. The course is immersive, integrative, inter-disciplinary, and international in nature. The curriculum consists of lectures by foremost investigators, laboratory exercises, advanced technical training, field work, and substantial participant directed original research. Participants in the course traditionally represent a diversity of backgrounds and the course is open to all scientists who have a strong interest in microbes and their activities. This year's course is made possible, in part, by support from the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

Dates: June 12 - July 28, 2010
Application Deadline: February 1, 2010
More info at: [Source NAI Newsletter]

A new paper in Science from NAI's Arizona State University team indicates that a trusted equation for calculating the age of the solar system may need rewriting. The team's measurements show that one of the equation's assumptions -- that certain kinds of uranium always appear in the same relative quantities in meteorites -- is wrong.

The differences in the quantities of uranium could mean that current estimates of the age of the solar system overshoot that age by 1 million years or more. Historical estimates place the age at about 4.5 billion years--a number that is not precise enough to show a difference of one million--but more finely honed recent calculations place the age at more like 4.5672 billion years. One million years is still an eyeblink at this scale, representing the difference between 4.566 and 4.567, but this difference is important in understanding the infant solar system. [Source NAI Newsletter]

Two nearby stars have been found to harbor "super-Earths" rocky planets larger than the Earth but smaller than ice giants such as Uranus and Neptune. Unlike previously discovered stars with super-Earths, both of the stars are similar to the Sun, suggesting to scientists that low-mass planets may be common around nearby stars. "Over the last 12 years or so nearly 400 planets have been found, and the vast majority of them have been very largeJupiter mass or even larger," says researcher Paul Butler of NAI's team at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "These latest planets are part of a new trend of finding much smaller planets - planets that are more comparable to Earth." For more information: [Source NAI Newsletter]

Application Deadline: February 1, 2010

Since 2006 the American Philosophical Society and the NASA Astrobiology Institute have partnered to promote the continued exploration of the world around us through a program of research grants in support of astrobiological field studies undertaken by graduate students, postdoctoral students, and junior scientists and scholars affiliated with a U.S.-based institution. We welcome applications by February 1, 2010 for field studies in all areas of research in astrobiology. For more information please see [Source NAI Newsletter]

Pennsylvania State University will once again host the Astrobiology Summer Program (ASP), supported by the National Science Foundation and the NASA Astrobiology Institute. Undergraduates with an interest in astrobiology and contemplating a career in the sciences are encouraged to apply. We consider applicants from any college or university but you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Participants receive a stipend, travel, and living expenses, and conduct research for ten weeks at Pennsylvania State University under the guidance of astrobiology faculty mentors. Among the many exciting summer activities is a field trip to Washington, D.C, including NASA Headquarters, NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center, the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum and Udvar-Hazy Center. The application deadline is February 19th, 2010.

For more information, visit or contact Blair Hedges, [Source NAI Newsletter]

Rocco Mancinelli, PI of NAI's Emeritus Team at the SETI Institute, will use a zeppelin airship to observe red salt ponds turn green while the environment is changed from near-Martian conditions into wetlands. Work will begin next year on a decades-long project to restore thousands of acres of industrial salt-harvesting ponds in San Francisco Bay into native wetland habitat. The ponds are colored red because of the color of microbes that flourish in the extremely salty conditions. Green microbes will replace red ones as the wetlands are restored.

For more information: [Source NAI Newsletter]

The Groupement de Recherche en Exobiologie (GdRE), one of the NAI's International Partners, has reorganized as the Societe Francaise d'Exobiologie (SFE).

The main goals of the SFE are to:

* integrate scientific research related to exobiology in France
* create and stimulate interdisciplinary contacts amongst researchers
* promote exobiology and related outreach activities (such as conferences, workshops, exhibitions, and its exobiology web site)

The SFE has an elected committee of 12 members headed by Francois Raulin as president. There are currently 110 registered members from throughout France and associated countries. The future international joint meeting of ISSOL (The International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life) and Bioastronomy will be held in July 2011 in Montpellier under the auspices of the SFE.

For more information about the SFE visit its website at . [Source NAI Newsletter]

  • The lunar phases of dust grains orbiting Fomalhaut, astro-ph
  • WASP-19b: the shortest period transiting exoplanet yet discovered, astro-ph