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Astrobiology (general): May 2008


Wandering Poles on Europa

A new study in the May 15th issue of Nature from NAIs Carnegie Institution of Washington Team reveals that Europas poles may not have always been located in the same place. Using images from three NASA spacecraft, Voyager, Galileo, and New Horizons, the study mapped surface features on Europa and matched them with a pattern predicted if Europa had experienced an episode of ~80 degree true polar wander. This movement of the pole and subsequent change in rotation axis is only possible if Europas outer shell is decoupled from the core by a liquid layer, so the study also reinforces evidence for the presence of an ocean on Europa.

Jim Kasting was recently elected as Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Jim is a member of the NAI's Pennsylvania State University and Virtual Planetary Laboratory @ UW teams, and a PI in the Exobiology program. The American Academy of Arts & Sciences is one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious honorary societies and independent policy research centers. Jim has also been named a Fellow of the Geochemical Society. The honorary title is "bestowed upon outstanding scientists who have, over some years, made a major contribution to the field of geochemistry.

For more information: http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/nai/articles/jim-kasting-elected-fellow-of-the-american-academy-of-arts-and-sciences-and-of-the-geochemical-society/ [Source: NAI Newsletter]

University of Arizona researcher and educator Chris Impey has received the 2008 ASP Richard H. Emmons award, which recognizes and celebrates outstanding achievement in the teaching of college-level introductory astronomy for non-science majors. The award citation states that "Innovation is certainly a hallmark of Chris's approach to teaching astronomy. He is ever thought provoking and engaging; students benefit from his refreshing methods that use interactive techniques and a blend of online and classroom teaching." For more information: http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/nai/articles/chris-impey-receives-asp-richard-h-emmons-award/ [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Video games and virtual worlds are a great way to inspire kids' interest in science and technology. The President's Commission on Implementation of US Space Exploration Policy reports that "...video and simulation games are not only a multi-billion dollar industry, they are proving to be effective as learning devices for people of all ages" ... "The potential for converting hobbies and amusements to more educational pursuits is enormous."