March 2010

This two week summer course will be held in Utrecht, The Netherlands at the Universiteit Utrecht from July 5-16, 2010.

Planet Mars has water ice near its surface, and dry rivers, deltas and gigantic canyons attest to past water flow on the surface. But how much water did flow on Mars? What was the past climate, and how long was the planet wet? Was there ever life on Mars and could life exist there in the future? This course focusses on Mars surface dynamics and landforms related to water. Topics include a general introduction to the Mars, comparison of terrestrial and Martian fluvial systems with a variety of landforms including impact craters, drainage patterns, rivers, deltas and canyons. Techniques employed in the course include image analysis, quantitative data analysis, laboratory experiments and physics-based modelling.

The aims of this course are (i) to introduce the student to planet Mars, (ii) to develop a thorough understanding of fluvial and deltaic morphodynamics on Earth and Mars, and (iii) to infer the implications for past hydrology and climate of Mars. We believe that a combination of dedicated lectures, literature and hands-on observation (image and elevation analysis), experimentation (creating self-organising landscapes with water and sand) and physics-based modelling (in a spreadsheet) by the student greatly enhances the acquired understanding of earth- and planetary science. The end product of this course will be an extended abstract on a case study in the style of the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

For more information: [Source NAI newsletter]

Applications are invited for a Post-doctoral Research fellowship in Cosmochemistry. The successful applicant will join an active research program that investigates a wide variety of topics, including: 1) the chronology of the early solar system, 2) the nature and origin of the presolar dust that provided the raw material for the solar system, 3) the isotopic and chemical compositions and origins of primitive chondritic components, 4) samples returned by the Stardust Mission to comet Wild 2, and 5) solar wind samples returned by the GENESIS Mission. The main analytical tools for this research are the petrographic microscope, scanning electron microscope, electron microprobe, scanning Raman microscope, and ion microprobe. Minimum qualifications include a Ph.D. in a discipline relevant to cosmochemistry and experience in one or more of the following areas: cosmochemistry, meteoritics, isotope geo- or cosmochemistry, secondary ion mass spectrometry. Previous experience with one or more of the following is required (training will be provided for the others): petrographic microscope, scanning electron microscope, electron microprobe, Raman microscope, or ion microprobe. Experience with isotopic measurements or meteorite petrography is desired. The successful candidate will participate in one or more of the above research projects and will receive training and will be expected to become an independent user of the Cameca ims 1280 ion microprobe at the University of Hawai'i. The Fellowship will be for an initial period of 1 year with renewal for up to 2 additional years based on performance and on the availability of support.

Stardust Comet Sample Return Mission"
Join us for the next NAI Director's Seminar!

Date/Time: Monday, March 29, 2010 11:00AM Pacific
Speaker: Don Brownlee (University of Washington), PI of Stardust Mission
Title: "Comets and the Early Solar System - Results from the Stardust Comet Sample Return Mission"

The NASA Stardust mission returned hundreds of samples of dust and small rocks from comet Wild 2. Like other Jupiter Family Comets, Wild 2 is believed to have formed beyond Neptune and stored in the Kuiper Belt until its recent migration into the inner solar system. Laboratory analyses of the comet samples provide a remarkably detailed look at the nature of solar nebula materials the resided at the edge of the solar system at the time that planets formed. Isotopically anomalous pre-solar grains have been found in the comet but their abundance is surprisingly low and it is clear that the bulk of micron and larger comet grains formed in the solar system by high temperature processes. The comet contains fragments of familiar high temperature components such as CAIs and chondrules that are well studied components of primitive meteorites. Common components formed in the 1400 to 2000K range These findings show that there was efficient radial transport of 1-100um grains over distances of 10's of AU. The comet seems to be a well preserved "grab bag" of components that formed in hot regions of the solar nebula. The low survival rate of pre-solar silicate grains at the edge of the solar nebula disk also suggests a low survival rate of pre-solar organics. It is clear that cometary icy and rocky materials formed in different environments. Stardust provided no information on ices but did it collect cometary organics including glycine. Comet-like bodies were probably the dominant form of planetesimal in the solar nebula and the Wild 2 results provide a very detailed look at the materials that made such bodies at the edge of the solar nebula.

For more information and participation instructions: [Source NAI newsletter]

Scholarship application deadlines plus new information for Canadian students and a worldwide opportunity provided by the Harvard Origin of Life Initiative

Topic: Extrasolar Planets and Habitability
Location: Palacio de Magdalena, Santander, Spain
Dates: June 21-25, 2010

The ninth annual Summer School in Astrobiology, Extrasolar Planets and Habitability, organized jointly by the Spanish Centro de Astrobiologa and the NASA Astrobiology Institute will be held at the Santander campus of Spain's national university, Universidad Internacional Menendez Pelayo (UIMP).

The 2010 School lecturers are Dr. Jack Lissauer, NASA Ames Research Center, co-investigator on the Kepler space telescope mission; Professor Eduardo Martin, CAB and University of Central Florida, co-discoverer of the first brown dwarf; Professor Victoria Meadows, University of Washington, head of NAI's Virtual Planetary Laboratory (VPL); and Professor Michel Mayor, University of Geneva, co-discoverer of the first hot Jupiter, 51 Peg b.

The deadline for NAI applications is March 31. Scholarships covering travel costs, school fees, accommodations, and meals are provided by NAI for students of any nationality studying at U.S. institutions. See for application details. CIFAR, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research funds scholarships for 3-4 Canadian students. One or two additional scholarships sponsored by the Harvard Origin of Life Initiative are available on a worldwide basis. Applications for CIFAR, and Harvard scholarships should be made via NAI by April 14. See for application details.

European students may apply for scholarship support provided by UIMP and the European Space Agency (ESA) through the UIMP website ( ) at a later date.

The Summer School includes a week of lectures, round-table discussions, astronomical observations, and a half-day field trip to a site of astrobiological interest. Students completing the school receive a UIMP Diploma in Astrobiology. Accommodations and meals are provided on-site at the Palacio de la Magdalena ( ).'

The NAI is pleased to announce selections of the NASA Postdoctoral Program resulting from the November 2009 cycle.

1. William Brazelton - Advisor: Matthew Schrenk, The Carnegie Institution of Washington and East Carolina University Topic: Tracing Energy, Carbon, and Nitrogen Flow in Serpentinization-fueled Microbial Ecosystems

2. Gregory Fournier - Advisor Eric Alm, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Team Topic: Reconstructing the Evolution of Protein Synthesis: A Novel Compositional Approach for Studying Early Life and the Emergence of Complexity

3. Jennifer Kyle - Advisors: Linda Jahnke and Ken Stedman, NASA Ames Research Center and Portland State University Topic: Viral Preservation within Terrestrial Hot Springs

4. Felisa Wolfe-Simon - Advisors: Ariel Anbar and Ronald Oremland, Arizona State University and the USGS- Menlo Park Topic: Arsenic and Old Life: Novel Geo-biochemistry of Arsenic in Biological Systems

More information about the NPP can be found at

The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) is accepting proposals to the 2010 NAI Director's Discretionary Fund (DDF).

Priority in selection for the NAI 2010 DDF will be given to proposals that are characterized by one or more of the following:

  • Integrates the research of and realizes synergies among the current NAI teams
  • Expands the scope of NAI research (and the NAI community) in innovative ways, accepting some risk in return for high pay-off potential
  • Responds in a timely way to new scientific results or programmatic opportunities
  • Develops connections between astrobiology research and other NASA science programs, particularly NASA's Earth Science Program - see,
  • Directly supports flight programs, particularly through instrument development
  • Uses funding particularly effectively, for example through leveraging or building on past investments

Schedule: Proposals will be accepted at any time until June 30, 2010.

For more information:

The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) hosted a "Workshop Without Walls" using advanced collaborative technologies on March 11-12, 2010. The workshop, on "The Organic Continuum from the Interstellar Medium to the Early Earth," was organized by George Cody and Doug Whittet, PIs of the NAI's Carnegie Institution of Washington and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute teams, respectively.

The experience was truly global, with over 170 registrants from 21 US States and 16 other countries, including Canada, Mexico, six western European nations, Ukraine, India, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, and Uruguay. A total of 33 scientific talks were presented over two days, with fully interactive Q&A among the participants at eight sites equipped with HD-video/audio, and streaming with real-time question submission through the Adobe Connect web interface.

The NAI has organized a session entitled "Integrating Astrobiology Research Across and Beyond the Community" at the upcoming 2010 Astrobiology Science Conference in League City, Texas. The purpose of this session is to stimulate new research collaborations across the astrobiology community and beyond by presenting broad nascent or ongoing collaborations as well as new collaborative opportunities. The session will be held on the last day of AbSciCon, Thursday, April 29, from 2:00 to 4:45pm. This session continues a process of integrating astrobiology research that lies at the heart of the NAI. A new phase of this process began in early 2009 when 10 new teams joined the Institute. The NAI Strategic Science Initiative Workshop - held May 13-15, 2009 in Tempe, AZ (see ) was a major milestone focused on developing new and expanded collaborations among NAI teams.

TO: NAI Newsletter distribution list
FROM: George Cody (NAI CIW team) and Douglas Whittet (NAI RPI team)
SUBJECT: Announcement and invitation to attend NAI "Workshop Without Walls": The Organic Continuum from the ISM to the Early SolarSystem

DATES: March 11-12, 2010

Workshop Website:

A two-day workshop using NAI remote communications tools will be held on March 11 and 12, 2010 to present topics spanning the cosmic evolution of organic complexity, from small molecule formation in interstellar clouds to organic synthesis and inventories in protoplanetary disks, the solar nebula, and primitive bodies such as comets and asteroids in our solar system.

Workshop topic areas include

* Interstellar Dust and the Organic Inventory of Protostellar Envelopes
* Organic Astrochemistry of Protoplanetary Disks
* Laboratory Studies of analog ISM and outer Solar System Materials
* Organics and Volatiles in Comets
* Organic matter in Interplanetary Dust particles.
* The Organic Inventory in Asteroids and Primitive Meteorites

This workshop is also a test of how to best use the advanced virtual communications capabilities of NAI to initiate greater cross-team awareness and dialog on a focused research area well represented across the NAI. What we learn from this will inform the greater NAI community.

The workshop is open to all and will be accessible via internet browser- no special software or equipment is required. To receive connection details, please register on the NAI website: