Archives

June 2021


Researchers have developed and successfully demonstrated a novel method for studying how cells repair damaged DNA in space. Sarah Stahl-Rommel of Genes in Space and colleagues present the new technique in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on June 30, 2021.

A Rutgers-led study sheds new light on the evolution of photosynthesis in plants and algae, which could help to improve crop production.

A group of polymers across several members of the oldest meteorite class, the CV3 type, shed light on space chemistry as early as 12.5 billion years ago

Comet 46P/Wirtanen was releasing an unusual amount of alcohol as it made its historic flyby of Earth two and a half years ago.

Bdelloid rotifers are multicellular animals so small you need a microscope to see them. Despite their size, they're known for being tough, capable of surviving through drying, freezing, starvation, and low oxygen.

Reports of methane detections at Mars have captivated scientists and non-scientists alike. On Earth, a significant amount of methane is produced by microbes that help most livestock digest plants. This digestion process ends with livestock exhaling or burping the gas into the air.

All life on Earth 500 million years ago lived in the oceans, but scientists know little about how these animals and algae developed. A newly discovered fossil deposit near Kunming, China, may hold the keys to understanding how these organisms laid the foundations for life on land and at sea today, according to an international team of researchers.

The ability of a planet to maintain surface water, key to life as we know it, depends on solar and planetary energy. As a star ages, it delivers more energy to a planet. As a planet ages it produces less internal heat, which leads to cooling.

Are we alone in the universe? So far, the only life we know of is right here on Earth. But here at NASA, we're looking.   

We present a model where some proportion of extraterrestrial civilizations expand uniformly over time to reach a cosmological scale. We then ask what humanity could infer if a sky survey were to find zero, one, or more such civilizations.

We present high angular resolution imaging observations of 517 host stars of TESS exoplanet candidates using the `Alopeke and Zorro speckle cameras at Gemini North and South. The sample consists mainly of bright F, G, K stars at distances of less than 500 pc.

Jupiter's icy moon Europa may be the most promising place in the solar system to find present-day environments suitable for life beyond Earth.

Scientists at Cornell University and the American Museum of Natural History have identified 2,034 nearby star-systems - within the small cosmic distance of 326 light-years - that could find Earth merely by watching our pale blue dot cross our sun.

It's cold in the depths of the world's oceans; most of the seafloor is at a chilly 4°C. Not so the seafloor of Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California.

Nereid, Neptune's third largest satellite, lies in an irregular orbit and is the only outer satellite in the system (apart from Triton) that can be spectroscopically characterized with the current generation of Earth-based telescopes.

Clouds are expected to form in a wide range of conditions in the atmosphere of exoplanets given the large range of possible condensible species.

A new analysis of known exoplanets has revealed that Earth-like conditions on potentially habitable planets may be much rarer than previously thought.

It's a treasure trove of data: the global geodatabase of vegetation plots "sPlotOpen" is now freely accessible. It contains data on vegetation from 114 countries and from all climate zones on Earth.

Amino acids are the essential keys in chemistry that contribute to the study of the formation of life. The complex organic molecule glycine (NH2CH2COOH) is the simplest amino acid that has been investigated in the interstellar medium for a long period to search for a potential connection between the Universe and the origin of life.

We can't detect them yet, but radio signals from distant solar systems could provide valuable information about the characteristics of their planets.

We obtained high-resolution spectra of the ultra-cool M-dwarf TRAPPIST-1 during the transit of its planet `b' using two high dispersion near-infrared spectrographs, IRD instrument on the Subaru 8.2m telescope and HPF instrument on the 10m Hobby-Eberly Telescope.

Ground-based spectroscopy of Ganymede's surface has revealed the surprising presence of dense-phase molecular oxygen (O2) via weak absorptions at visible wavelengths. To date, the state and stability of this O2 at the temperatures and pressures of Ganymede's surface are not understood.

Magnetic investigations of icy moons have provided some of the most compelling evidence available confirming the presence of subsurface, liquid water oceans.

Formation of hazes at microbar pressures has been explored by theoretical models of exoplanet atmospheres to explain Rayleigh scattering and/or featureless transmission spectra, however observational evidence of aerosols in the low pressure formation environments has proved elusive.

Context. The discovery of an extrasolar planet with an ocean has crucial importance in the search for life beyond Earth.

Since planet occurrence and primordial atmospheric retention probability increase with period, the occurrence-weighted median planets discovered by transit surveys may bear little resemblance to the low-occurrence, short-period planets sculpted by atmospheric escape ordinarily used to calibrate mass--radius relations and planet formation models.

Similar to the case of solar system planets, reflected starlight from exoplanets is expected to be polarized due to atmospheric scattering and the net disk integrated polarization should be non-zero owing to the asymmetrical illumination of the planetary disk.

Titan, Saturn's largest moon, supports a dense atmosphere, numerous bodies of liquid on its surface, and as a richly organic world is a primary focus for understanding the processes that support the development of life.

It could be a milestone on the path to detecting life on other planets: Scientists under the leadership of the University of Bern and of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS detect a key molecular property of all living organisms from a helicopter flying several kilometers above ground. The measurement technology could also open up opportunities for remote sensing of the Earth.

Geologic activity on Earth appears to follow a 27.5-million-year cycle, giving the planet a "pulse," according to a new study published in the journal Geoscience Frontiers.

The X-ray and extreme-ultra-violet (EUV) emissions from the low-mass stars significantly affect the evolution of the planetary atmosphere. It is, however, observationally difficult to constrain the stellar high-energy emission because of the interstellar extinction.

The long relationships between stars and the planets around them - including the Sun and the Earth - may be even more complex than previously thought. This is one conclusion of a new study involving thousands of stars using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The search for signs of life through the detection of exoplanet atmosphere biosignature gases is gaining momentum. Yet, only a handful of rocky exoplanet atmospheres are suitable for observation with planned next-generation telescopes.

Methane is a strong greenhouse gas that plays a key role in Earth's climate. Anytime we use natural gas, whether we light up our kitchen stove or barbeque, we are using methane.

This work presents the first steps to modelling synthetic rovibrational spectra for all molecules of astrophysical interest using the new code Prometheus.

The orbiting lab is hosting a variety of life forms to help researchers understand how weightlessness affects biology. Observations provide insights often advancing health and improving conditions for humans on and off the Earth.

A large group of iconic fossils widely believed to shed light on the origins of many of Earth's animals and the communities they lived in may be hiding a secret.

The Search for Extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is a scientific and cultural effort seeking evidence of intelligent life beyond earth. Radio SETI observes the radio spectrum for ''technosignatures" that could be produced by an advanced ET society.

It's a classic superhero tale: Inconspicuous, underestimated, our hero is revealed to have powers beyond imagination! The hottest and coldest environments on Earth, decades without water, the powerful radiation of space - none of it is any match for... the tardigrade!

The presence of amino acids on the prebiotic Earth is widely accepted, either coming from endogenous chemical processes or being delivered by extraterrestrial material. On the other hand, plausibly prebiotic pathways to peptides often rely on different aqueous approaches where condensation of amino acids is thermodynamically unfavorable.

Though it might seem inanimate, the soil under our feet is very much alive. It's filled with countless microorganisms actively breaking down organic matter, like fallen leaves and plants, and performing a host of other functions that maintain the natural balance of carbon and nutrients stored in the ground beneath us.

We present a set of idealised numerical experiments of a solstitial aquaplanet ocean and examine the thermodynamic and dynamic implications of surface gravity waves (SGWs) upon its mean state.

An international group of collaborators, including scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and The University of New Mexico, have discovered a new, temperate sub-Neptune sized exoplanet with a 24-day orbital period orbiting a nearby M dwarf star.

The moons of planets that have no parent star can possess an atmosphere and retain liquid water. Astrophysicists at LMU have calculated that such systems could harbor sufficient water to make life possible - and sustain it.

The preponderance of white dwarfs in the Milky Way were formed from the remnants of stars of the same or somewhat higher mass as the Sun, i.e., from G-stars. We know that life can exist around G-stars.

The Earth contains between one and ten oceans of water, including water within the mantle, where one ocean is the mass of water on the Earth's surface today. With n-body simulations we consider how much water could have been delivered from the asteroid belt to the Earth after its formation.

Globally, the Earth system has thousands of terragrams (Tg) (1 Tg = 10 12 g) of mineral nanoparticles moving around the planet each year. These mineral nanoparticles are ubiquitously distributed throughout the atmosphere, oceans, waters, soils, in and/or on most living organisms, and even within proteins such as ferritin.

Ganymede's atmosphere is produced by charged particle sputtering and sublimation of its icy surface.

The Sun is the primary source of energy for the Earth. The small changes in total solar irradiance (TSI) can affect our climate in the longer timescale.

Phosphorus is an essential element for life, and the phosphorous cycle is widely believed to be a key factor limiting the extent of Earth's biosphere and its impact on remotely detectable features of Earth's atmospheric chemistry.

A research group from Kobe University has demonstrated that the heat generated by the impact of a small astronomical body could enable aqueous alteration (*1) and organic solid formation to occur on the surface of an asteroid.

Many exoplanets are discovered in binary star systems in internal or in circumbinary orbits. Whether the planet can be habitable or not depends on the possibility to maintain liquid water on its surface, and therefore on the luminosity of its host stars and on the dynamical properties of the planetary orbit.

The discovery of amino acids in meteorites has presented two clues to the origin of their processing subsequent to their formation: a slight preference for left-handedness in some of them, and isotopic anomalies in some of their constituent atoms.

L 98-59 is an M3V dwarf star that hosts three small (R < 1.6 Earth radii) planets. The host star is bright (K = 7.1) and nearby (10.6 pc), making the system a prime target for follow-up characterization with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

Researchers from NASA's Kennedy Space Center planted pepper seeds in seed carriers inside the Space Life Sciences Lab on April 8, 2021, as part of the Plant Habitat-04 (PH-04) experiment.

Very high atmospheric CO2 levels can explain the high temperatures on the still young Earth three to four billion years ago.

A catastrophic drop in atmospheric ozone levels around the tropics is likely to have contributed to a bottleneck in the human population around 60 to 100,000 years ago, an international research team has suggested.

Context. Homochirality is a generic and unique property of life on Earth and is considered a universal and agnostic biosignature. Homochirality induces fractional circular polarization in the incident light that it reflects.

Inferring the climate and surface conditions of terrestrial exoplanets in the habitable zone is a major goal for the field of exoplanet science. This pursuit will require both statistical analyses of the population of habitable planets as well as in-depth analyses of the climates of individual planets.

Microbiologists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are preparing experimental samples of fungi to send for a ride around the moon tentatively scheduled for later in 2021 or early 2022.

A multidisciplinary team of researchers involving astrophysicists, astrochemists and biochemists, has reported the detection of the prebiotic molecule ethanolamine in space, which could have been incorporated into the early Earth. This species forms the simplest head of phospholipids that make up the membranes of all present-day cells.

Stellar activity poses one of the main obstacles for the detection and characterisation of small exoplanets around cool stars, as it can induce radial velocity (RV) signals that can hide or mimic the presence of planetary companions.

We report the discovery of two planetary systems, namely G 264-012, an M4.0 dwarf with two terrestrial planets (Mbsini=2.50+0.29−0.30 M⊕ and Mcsini=3.75+0.48−0.47 M⊕), and Gl 393, a bright M2.0 dwarf with one terrestrial planet (Mbsini=1.71±0.24 M⊕).

Phosphorus related species are not known to be as omnipresent in space as hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur-bearing species. Astronomers spotted very few P-bearing molecules in the interstellar medium and circumstellar envelopes.

Recent observations of the Earth's exosphere revealed the presence of an extended hydrogenic component that could reach distances beyond 40 planetary radii. Detection of similar extended exospheres around Earth-like exoplanets could reveal crucial facts in terms of habitability.