October 2013

Astronomers have discovered the first Earth-sized planet outside the solar system that has a rocky composition like that of Earth. Kepler-78b whizzes around its host star every 8.5 hours, making it a blazing inferno and not suitable for life as we know it. The results are published in two papers in the journal Nature.

Scientists supported by NASA have detected water locked in mineral grains on the Moon. The findings hint at unknown water sources deep below the lunar surface. Data for the study came from the NASA-funded Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument aboard the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.

Scientists studying data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have discovered new evidence that Mars may have once had a vast ocean on its surface. The research team spotted an ancient delta where a river might have emptied into an ocean so large that it covered much of the planet's northern hemisphere.

The Astrobiology Program has been the sole source of funding for biennial AbSciCons from their beginning. However, restrictions on federal spending on conferences and budget limitations due to sequestration have led us to determine that the Program cannot support an AbSciCon next year. We regret this decision as much as you do, and it was a hard one to make.

Oxygen in the atmosphere and ocean rose dramatically about 600 million years ago, coinciding with the first proliferation of animal life. Since then, numerous short lived biotic events -- typically marked by significant climatic perturbations -- took place when oxygen concentrations in the ocean dipped episodically.

Betcha didn't know that the unofficial motto of NASA's Astrobiology Program was "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of Congressional paralysis stays these scientists from the swift completion of their appointed webinars" ;-)

Planets rich in carbon, including so-called diamond planets, may lack oceans, according to NASA-funded theoretical research.

Any textbook will tell you that oxygen is essential for advanced life to evolve. But why did life not explode when oxygen levels rose dramatically 2.1 billion years ago? This is the big question after a Danish/Swedish/French research team, led by University of Southern Denmark, has shown that the oxygen content 2.1 billion years ago was probably the same as when life exploded 500 million years ago.

We explore how questions related to developing a sustainable human civilization can be cast in terms of astrobiology. In particular we show how ongoing astrobiological studies of the coupled relationship between life, planets and their co-evolution can inform new perspectives and direct new studies in sustainability science.

The existence of water in extrasolar planetary systems is of great interest as it constrains the potential for habitable planets and life. Here, we report the identification of a circumstellar disk that resulted from the destruction of a water-rich and rocky, extrasolar minor planet.

We investigate water and deuterated water chemistry in turbulent protoplanetary disks. Chemical rate equations are solved with the diffusion term, mimicking turbulent mixing in vertical direction.

Previous attempts to describe circumbinary habitable zones have been concerned with the spatial extent of the zone, calculated analytically according to the combined radiation field of both stars.

We used Keck adaptive optics observations to identify the first planet discovered by microlensing to lie in or near the habitable zone.

Astronomers have found the shattered remains of an asteroid that contained huge amounts of water orbiting an exhausted star, or white dwarf. This suggests that the star GD 61 and its planetary system - located about 150 light years away and at the end of its life - had the potential to contain Earth-like exoplanets.

Finding life on exoplanets may be more difficult than people thought, said Feng Tian, a professor at the Center for Earth System Science at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. The report is being presented today to the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Denver, CO. The result is of special interest because it may shed light on how and where life could be identified on exoplanets.

The mystery of why life on Earth evolved when it did has deepened with the publication of a new study in the latest edition of the journal Science. Scientists at the CRPG-CNRS University of Lorraine, The University of Manchester and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris have ruled out a theory as to why the planet was warm enough to sustain the planet's earliest life forms when the Sun's energy was roughly three-quarters the strength it is today.

On the exoplanet Kepler 7b, the weather is highly predictable, an international team of scientists has found: On any given day, the exoplanet, which orbits a star nearly 1,000 light-years from Earth, is heavily overcast on one side, while the other side likely enjoys clear, cloudless weather.