April 2020

The next generation of powerful Earth- and space-based telescopes will be able to hunt distant solar systems for evidence of life on Earth-like exoplanets - particularly those that chaperone burned-out stars known as white dwarfs.

High contrast direct imaging of exoplanets can provide many important observables, including measurements of the orbit, spectra that probe the lower layers of the atmosphere, and phase variations of the planet, but cannot directly measure planet radius or mass.

A research team including research scientist Atsuko Kobayashi from the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan and research scientist Mizuho Koike from the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science at Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, have found nitrogen-bearing organic material in carbonate minerals in a Martian meteorite.

In the near future, extremely-large ground-based telescopes may conduct some of the first searches for life beyond the solar system. High-spectral resolution observations of reflected light from nearby exoplanetary atmospheres could be used to search for the biosignature oxygen.

The "liquid water habitable zone" (HZ) concept is predicated on the ability of the silicate weathering feedback to stabilize climate across a wide range of instellations.

Very little experimental work has been done to explore the properties of photochemical hazes formed in atmospheres with very different compositions or temperatures than that of the outer solar system or of early Earth.

Chondrites are the likely building blocks of Earth, and identifying the group of chondrite that best represents Earth is a key to resolving the state of the early Earth.

With the upcoming launch of space telescopes dedicated to the study of exoplanets, the Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (ARIEL) and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), a new era is opening in the exoplanetary atmospheric explorations.

For the first time, NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory tracked water loss from an interstellar comet as it approached and rounded the Sun. The object, 2I/Borisov, traveled through the solar system in late 2019.

For years, researchers have searched for the working principles of self-assembly that can build a cell (complex biological organism) as well as a crystal (far simpler inorganic material) in the same way.

Astrobiology has been gaining increasing scientific prominence and public attention as the search for life beyond Earth continues to make significant headway on multiple fronts. In view of these recent developments, the fascinating and dynamic etymology of astrobiology is elucidated, and thus shown to encompass a plethora of vivid characters drawn from different continents, religions, ideologies and centuries.

A new study shows that "hotspots" of nutrients surrounding phytoplankton -- which are tiny marine algae producing approximately half of the oxygen we breathe every day -- play an outsized role in the release of a gas involved in cloud formation and climate regulation.

A multi-beam ultra-high vacuum apparatus is presented. In this article we describe the design and construction of a new laboratory astrophysics experiment -- VErs de NoUvelles Synthèses (VENUS) -- that recreates the solid-state non-energetic formation conditions of complex organic molecules in dark clouds and circumstellar environments.

Stellar variability due to magnetic activity and flows at different spatial scales strongly impacts radial velocities. This variability is seen as oscillations, granulation, supergranulation, and meridional flows.

Astrophysical observations have shown that Neptune-like water-rich exoplanets are common in our galaxy. These "water worlds" are believed to be covered with a thick layer of water, hundreds to thousands of miles deep, above a rocky mantle.

Biologists have long hoped to understand the nature of the earliest living organisms on Earth. If they could, they might then be able to say something about how, when, and where life arose on Earth, and perhaps by extension, whether life is common in the Universe.

Interstellar comets offer direct samples of volatiles from distant protoplanetary disks. 2I/Borisov is the first notably active interstellar comet discovered in our solar system[1].

Explaining the evidence for surface liquid water on early Mars has been a challenge for climate modelers, as the sun was ~30% less luminous during the late-Noachian.

Researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and their colleagues used a new geochemical tool to shed light on the origin of nitrogen and other volatile elements on Earth, which may also prove useful as a way to monitor the activity of volcanoes. Their findings were published April 16, 2020, in the journal Nature

In the past decade, Astrochemistry has witnessed an impressive increase in the number of detections of complex organic molecules. Some of these species are of prebiotic interest such as glycolaldehyde, the simplest sugar, or amino acetonitrile, a possible precursor of glycine.

We report the detection of the first circumbinary planet found by TESS. The target, a known eclipsing binary, was observed in sectors 1 through 12 at 30-minute cadence and in sectors 4 through 12 at two-minute cadence.

Over large timescales, a terrestrial planet may be driven towards spin-orbit synchronous rotation by tidal forces. In this particular configuration, the planet exhibits permanent dayside and nightside, which may induce strong day-night temperature gradients.

By mimicking rocky seafloor chimneys in the lab, scientists have produced new evidence that these features could have provided the right ingredients to kick-start life.

A team of transatlantic scientists, using reanalyzed data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, has discovered an Earth-size exoplanet orbiting in its star's habitable zone, the area around a star where a rocky planet could support liquid water.

In a new study, Stanford researchers have strongly bolstered the theory that a lack of oxygen in Earth's oceans contributed to a devastating die-off approximately 444 million years ago.

In their recent comment, Cockell et al. argue that the habitability of an environment is fundamentally a binary property; that is to say, an environment can either support the metabolic processes of a given organism or not.

Since the first laboratory synthesis of C60 in 1985, fullerene-related species have been proposed to interpret various astronomical features. After more than 25 years' efforts, several circumstellar and interstellar features have been convincingly assigned to C60, C70, and C+60.

The design, implementation, and performance of a customized carbon atom beam source for the purpose of investigating solid-state reaction routes in interstellar ices in molecular clouds are discussed.

A growing body of research links the ways that organisms react to their environment at a cellular level to a surprising variety of behaviors and physical changes. The mechanism is genetic, but it involves adding extra information to DNA rather than changing it. Scientists call this mechanism epigenetics, and it plays a role in changes that humans and other living things experience in space.

While everybody agrees that our blue planet is rich in water, this observation is at odd, first, with the exploration of other rocky planets, genuinely lacking surface water, and second, with the idea of a giant impact between the proto-Earth and a planetary embryo the size of Mars that created the Moon.

The solar gravitational lens (SGL) is characterized by remarkable properties: it offers brightness amplification of up to a factor of ~1e11 (at 1 um) and extreme angular resolution (~1e-10 arcsec). As such, it allows for extraordinary observational capabilities for direct high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy of Earth-like exoplanets.

We present a cosmic perspective on the search for life and examine the likely number of Communicating Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent civilizations (CETI) in our Galaxy by utilizing the latest astrophysical information.

The presence of liquid water at the base of the Martian polar caps has long been suspected but not observed. We surveyed the Planum Australe region using the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding, a low-frequency radar on the Mars Express spacecraft.

High resolution spectroscopy (HRS) has been used to detect a number of species in the atmospheres of hot Jupiters. Key to such detections is accurately and precisely modelled spectra for cross-correlation against the R≳20,000 observations.

Photometric variation of a directly imaged planet contains information on both the geography and spectra of the planetary surface. We propose a novel technique that disentangles the spatial and spectral information from the multi-band reflected light curve.

We develop a new retrieval scheme for obtaining two-dimensional surface maps of exoplanets from scattered light curves. In our scheme, the combination of the L1-norm and Total Squared Variation, which is one of the techniques used in sparse modeling, is adopted to find the optimal map.

The search for life on exoplanets is one of the grand scientific challenges of our time.

Astrobiologists supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Program have provided new insight into the transition between simple, microscopic life and complex animal life.

Using a 3D general circulation model (GCM), we investigate the sensitivity of the climate of tidally-locked Earth-like exoplanets, Trappist-1e and Proxima Centauri b, to the choice of a convection parameterization.

The catalytic role of dust grain surfaces in the thermal reaction CO2 + 2NH3 → NH4+NH2COO was recently demonstrated by our group.

Methane is one of the simplest stable molecules that is both abundant and widely distributed across space. It is thought to have partial origin from interstellar molecular clouds, which are near the beginning of the star formation cycle.

Sulfur gases significantly affect the photochemistry of planetary atmospheres in our Solar System, and are expected to be important components in exoplanet atmospheres.

The Cassini Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) observed a plume of water vapor spewing out from the south polar regions of Enceladus in occultation geometry 7 times during the Cassini mission.

Newly discovered single-celled creatures living deep beneath the seafloor have given researchers clues about how they might find life on Mars.

Complex organic molecules (COMs) can be produced by energetic processing of interstellar ice mantles accreted on top of dust grains. Two COMs with proposed energetic ice formation pathways are formamide and acetaldehyde. Both have been detected in Solar System comets, and in different circumstellar and interstellar environments.

The habitable zone is the main tool that mission architectures utilize to select potentially habitable planets for follow up spectroscopic observation.

Carbon is an essential building block for all living things on Earth and plays a vital role in many of the geologic processes that shape life on the planet, including climate change and ocean acidification. But the total amount of carbon on Earth remains a mystery, because more than 90% of Earth's carbon is inaccessible to direct observation and measurement, deep within the planet at extreme temperature and pressure.