October 2011

Europa Lander Open Forum

The Europa Science Definition Team (SDT) has been tasked by NASA Headquarters to consider a lander option for Europa. As part of the information gathering effort, the Europa SDT will solicit input from the scientific community at large. A Town Hall meeting consisting of presentations and discussion is scheduled for the afternoon immediately following the upcoming OPAG meeting in Pasadena, on Thursday October 20, from 1:30 to 5:00 pm. Please see:

Details from recent lander design studies will be presented, followed by community presentations and open discussion. Brief presentations are solicited relating to topics such as: potential science objectives and priorities, instrument techniques, landing environment and sites, sample handling, and astrobiological context.

Requests for brief (~5-minute) presentations on relevant topics will be accepted until the week of the event.

Interested parties unable to attend in person are encouraged to join electronically. Video conferencing details may be found at the OPAG web site:

Note that registration for OPAG does not confirm participation in the Forum.

Please forward questions or RSVP to Steve Vance (

On October 11, 2011, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is releasing a Cooperative Agreement Notice (NNH12ZDA002C) soliciting new institutional members to the NASA Astrobiology Institute. NASA announces, through the release of this Cooperative Agreement Notice, an opportunity for the submission of team-based proposals for membership in the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

Proposers will be required to clearly articulate an innovative, interdisciplinary, astrobiology research program, together with plans to advance the full scope of NAI objectives as defined in the Institute's Mission Statement ( NASA is seeking both proposals responding to the long-term goals and objectives given in the Astrobiology Roadmap ( and proposals focused on ensuring that the astrobiology science portfolio is prepared to respond to the challenge of planning and implementing these missions. Accordingly, proposals that place emphasis on research that will help prepare for current or future flight programs directed at astrobiological targets are encouraged.

It is anticipated that $6-8M will be available for this selection in the first award year, leading to the award of approximately 4-5 Cooperative Agreements, each of 5 years duration.

Participation in this solicitation is open to all categories of organizations, domestic and non-U.S., including industry, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, NASA centers, and other Government agencies. Upon its release date, this Cooperative Agreement Notice will be available electronically from (select "Solicitations" then select "Open Solicitations" then select "NNH12ZDA002C").

Notices of Intent (NOIs) are due November 21, 2011, and proposals are due January 31, 2012.

Additional information on the NASA Astrobiology Institute may be obtained from: Dr. Carl Pilcher, Director, NASA Astrobiology Insitute, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035; Telephone: (650) 604-0022; E-mail: Additional information on this Notice and the overall NASA Astrobiology Program may be obtained from: Dr. Mary Voytek, Senior Scientist for Astrobiology, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC 20546; Telephone: (202) 358-1577; E-mail:

Applications are currently being accepted for the Origin of Life Gordon Research Seminar (GRS). The Origin of Life GRS is a unique forum for graduate students, post-docs, and other scientists with comparable levels of experience and education to present and exchange new data and cutting edge ideas on origin of life research. The meeting will be held January 7th-8th at Hotel Galvez in Galveston TX, immediately preceding the Origin of Life Gordon Research Conference to be held January 8th - 13th at the same location. Participants in the Origin of Life Gordon Research Seminar are encouraged to participate in the associated Origin of Life Gordon Research Conference.

For more information please visit:

The New York Center for Astrobiology expects to hire two postdoctoral researchers in the areas of observational astronomy and astrochemistry. The successful applicants will join an existing research program that seeks to identify important chemical pathways that lead from simple molecules in the interstellar medium to complex organic molecules in protoplanetary disks around newly-born stars and in primitive solar-system materials. The project represents a collaboration between researchers in the New York Center for Astrobiology (NYCA), based at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, and the NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) in Mountain View, CA, led by Doug Whittet and Yvonne Pendleton, respectively. It is anticipated that one appointee will be based primarily at NYCA, the other primarily at ARC. The duties of the appointees will be matched to their prior expertise and may include: acquisition and analysis of new astronomical observations at infrared and/or radio wavelengths; research with existing databases such as the Spitzer Heritage Archive; related astrophysical and/or astrochemical modeling; interpretation of results and preparation for publication in the refereed literature. Positions will be for one year initially, with anticipated renewal for a second year dependent on availability of funds.

Applicants must hold a Ph.D. in Astronomy, Astrophysics, Astrochemistry, or a related field, and have strong research interests in studies of the molecular interstellar medium and/or protoplanetary disks. Preference will be given to applicants with prior experience and publications of direct relevance to the research project, including expertise in one or more of the following: ground-based observational infrared or millimeter-wave astronomy; spectroscopy of interstellar dust, ices and gas-phase molecules; data analysis, including interrogation of large databases; physical and chemical modeling of interstellar molecular clouds and/or protoplanetary disks.

To receive full consideration, applications, including curriculum vitae, publications list, one-page statement of research interests, and the names of at least three professional references should be submitted online as soon as possible at the following url:

Follow instructions for new users. Apply to the Postdoctoral Research Associate, NY Center for Astrobiology, search number 20110001 position. Applications may also be mailed to: Ms. Ann Marie Strack, Department of Astrobiology, Cogswell Lab, 110 8th Street, Troy, NY 12180 or submitted by email to

Join us for the third in a series of NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Program (NPP) seminars!

Date/Time: Monday, October 17th, 11am Pacific Time

Title: "Integrating Geochemistry and (Meta)genomics in the Geothermal Springs in Yellowstone National Park: Mapping the Functional Limits of Life in Early Earth Analog Environments"

Speaker: Eric Boyd, Montana State University

Abstract: The genetic record of extant microorganisms documents the interactions between life and the environment throughout Earth history. This evolutionary link forms the basis of an emerging area of astrobiology research that is directed at quantifying the relationships between the distribution, diversity, and metabolic composition of microbial life and the characteristics of the environment that it inhabits. The strong physical and chemical gradients and the relatively simple microbial diversity associated with geothermal environments makes them model environments for the development and application of techniques capable of quantifying the extent of such relationships.

Our recent results have documented non-random patterns in the spatial distribution of individual genes [e.g., ribosomal (16S rDNA), nitrogenase (nifH), hydrogenase (hydA), chlorophyll biosynthesis (bchL)] in the geothermal springs in Yellowstone National Park (YNP), Wyoming, USA. These results suggested that the microbial populations that harbor these genes have evolved specific physiological traits that enable them to inhabit a particular ecological niche (i.e., multiplicity of chemical and physical parameters that characterize a microenvironment). To further examine this phenomenon and to uncover the traits facilitating niche conservatism in these communities, we investigated the composition of ~30 community metagenomes in YNP using a suite of ecological modeling tools.

The results suggest that the metabolic composition of microbial mat communities can be accurately predicted based on the physicochemistry of the environment. Of particular significance is the strict temperature-dependent demarcation noted between the metabolic composition of chemotrophic communities (supported by chemical energy) and phototrophic communities (supported by light energy) as well as the pH-dependent demarcation in the metabolic composition of chemotrophic communities. Additional results from recent modeling and in situ activity-based studies will be presented that reveal the environmental constraints that define the distribution of metabolic processes in these early Earth analog environments. Collectively, these results provide clues as to the parameters that drove the evolution of metabolic processes on Earth and also serve as a foundation for predicting the habitability of early Earth environments and newly discovered extraterrestrial planetary bodies.

For more information and connection information:

Comparative Survival Analysis of Deinococcus Radiodurans and the Haloarchaea Natrialba Magadii and Haloferax Volcanii, Exposed to Vacuum Ultraviolet Irradiation

Ximena C. Abrevaya, Ivan G. Paulino-Lima, Douglas Galante, Fabio Rodrigues, Pablo J.D. Mauas, Eduardo Corton, Claudia de Alencar Santos Lage
(Submitted on 29 Sep 2011)

The haloarchaea Natrialba magadii and Haloferax volcanii, as well as the radiation-resistant bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans, were exposed to vacuum-UV (V-UV) radiation at the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS). Cell monolayers (containing 105 - 106 cells per sample) were prepared over polycarbonate filters and irradiated under high vacuum (10-5 Pa) with polychromatic synchrotron radiation. N. magadii was remarkably resistant to high vacuum with a survival fraction of ((3.77 ± 0.76) x 10-2), larger than the one of D. radiodurans ((1.13 ± 0.23) x 10-2). The survival fraction of the haloarchaea H. volcanii, of ((3.60 ± 1.80) x 10-4), was much smaller. Radiation resistance profiles were similar between the haloarchaea and D. radiodurans for fluencies up to 150 J m-2. For fluencies larger than 150 J -2 there was a significant decrease in the survival of haloarchaea, and in particular H. volcanii did not survive. Survival for D. radiodurans was 1% after exposure to the higher V-UV fluency (1350 J m-2) while N. magadii had a survival lower than 0.1%. Such survival fractions are discussed regarding the possibility of interplanetary transfer of viable micro-organisms and the possible existence of microbial life in extraterrestrial salty environments such as the planet Mars and the Jupiter's moon Europa. This is the first work reporting survival of haloarchaea under simulated interplanetary conditions.

Full paper

Comments: Draft version (without figures), Accepted for publication in Astrobiology
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Citeas: arXiv:1109.6590v1 [astro-ph.EP]
Submission history
From: Ximena Celeste Abrevaya [view email]
[v1] Thu, 29 Sep 2011 17:02:52 GMT (131kb)

The Call for Session Topics and Session Organizers for AbSciCon 2012 has been extended until OCTOBER 15.

The Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) relies on input from the astrobiology community in developing the conference program. The organizing committee is currently seeking nominations for session, symposium and workshop topics. The deadline for session nominations has been extended to October 15, 2011.

To submit your session topic, visit the conference website at:


September 1, 2011 - Call for Session Topics/Organizers
November 15, 2011 - Call for Abstracts
January 31, 2012 - ABSTRACT DEADLINE
March 1, 2012 - Conference Program posted
March 31, 2012 - Pre-registration deadline

Source: NAI newsletter