Astrobiology (general): November 2009

The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) is organizing a session at AbSciCon 2010 on "Integrating Astrobiology Research Across and Beyond the Community." The concept for the session reflects one of astrobiology's defining characteristics and a core mission of NAI: bringing together researchers from many disciplines to develop and foster interdisciplinary collaborations in astrobiology research. Participation in this session is invited regardless of affiliation with the NAI. The goal is to develop and foster interdisciplinary collaborations across the astrobiology community, with other science communities not currently engaged in astrobiology research, and with other communities such as philosophy of science, ethics, anthropology, etc.

We invite you to submit an abstract for this session. Abstracts should describe an innovative interdisciplinary collaboration addressing astrobiology research or its societal implications. Presentations on collaborations that are underway, in formation, or contemplated/desired are all welcome. Please note that the abstract deadline is Dec. 3, 2009. For further information about AbSciCon 2010 and abstract submission, please see the following websites:

Meeting date and location: April 26-29, 2010, at the South Shore Harbor Resort and Conference Center in League City, Texas.

Conference website:

Abstract submission information:

ABSTRACT DEADLINE: 5:00 p.m. (CST) Thursday, December 3, 2009

[Source: Carl B. Pilcher, Director NASA Astrobiology Institute]

Women in Aerospace recently awarded Dr. Linda Billings the Lifetime Achievement Award for more than 25 years of excellence in communicating with the public about the nation's space program. As a journalist, she has covered energy, environment, and labor relations as well as aerospace. As a researcher, she has worked on communication strategy, media analysis, and audience research for NASA's astrobiology, Mars exploration, and planetary protection programs. Her research has focused on the role that journalists play in constructing the cultural authority of scientists, the rhetorical strategies that scientists and journalists employ in communicating about science, and the rhetoric of space exploration.

Currently a research professor at the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., she also does communication research for NASA's astrobiology program in the Science Mission Directorate. In addition, she advises NASA's Senior Scientist for Mars Exploration and Planetary Protection Officer on communications. Photographs from the WIA Awards ceremony can be viewed at: [Source NASA Astrobiology]

This past week in Rome as part of the International Year of Astronomy, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences hosted a Study Week on Astrobiology, an interdisciplinary event during which "cloistered astrobiologists confronted each other's fields of research" and dialogued about the connections. The participants included many from the extended astrobiology community, including John Baross, David Charbonneau, Roger Summons, Andy Knoll, Chris Impey, Jonathan Lunine, Jill Tarter, Sara Seager, and Giovanna Tinetti.

Daniel Glavin has been selected by the international Meteoritical Society as the recipient of the 2010 Nier Prize. The prestigious Nier Prize is awarded to young scientists performing valuable research in fields related to meteoritics and planetary science.

Dr. Glavin was presented with the prize for his work on extraterrestrial organic chemistry. By examining carbonaceous meteorites, Glavin and his team have made important contributions toward understanding why life uses only left-handed versions of amino acids. It turns out that molecules delivered to Earth in meteorites may have played a role in life's eventual bias toward molecules of a specific orientation. The work was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Source NASA Astrobiology]

Editor's note: "Avatar", a film by former NASA Advisory Committee member James Cameron, will debut across the planet on 18 December. Widely hailed as "ground breaking" the film may well push the boundaries of what can be portrayed on the big screen. The film centers around humans mining precious materials on a world in the Alpha Centauri star system - and the inevitable conflict that arises with the local (sentient) inhabitants. The film delves into a wide range of issues that intersect with what NASA's Astrobiology Institute and Exobiology Programs have looked into in one way or another.

Unparalleled simulations of an extrasolar planet with a whole new ecology - but it would seem that NASA is not really interested in this film.

The NAI extends its congratulations to University of Hawaii team member Tobias Owen for receiving the 2009 Gerard P. Kuiper Prize. The Gerard P. Kuiper Prize was established by the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) to recognize and honor outstanding contributors to planetary science. It is to be awarded to scientists whose achievements have most advanced our understanding of the planetary system. For more information: [Source: NAI Newsletter]