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Astrobiology (general): January 2012


Join John Delano for a new astrobiology talk from TEDx Albany entitled, Is Anyone Else Out There? A survey of astrobiology research topics masterfully conveyed as a "story of us," the talk ranges from the manufacture of organic molecules in space to extrasolar planets, to hyperthermophilichemolithoautotrophs!

Dr. Delano is a Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at the University at Albany (State University of New York), and is the Associate Director of the NAI's New York Center for Astrobiology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is the author of 60 scientific publications, and has served on many advisory panels for NASA.

To view the talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrQY7vQy50M

Sign up for FameLab Astrobiology--Houston!

We need you in Houston! Sign up today to participate in FameLab Astrobiology at the Lunar and Planetary Institute on January 13th. FameLab is a science communication competition that focuses on building your skills with workshops on good communication practices. The workshop in Houston will be led by the Co-Directors of the National Association for Interpretation. Competitors will present a three-minute piece on their research or an astrobiology-related topic of their choosing. Those topping the competition in Houston will go on to the final at AbSciCon in April...the winner there will go on to the FameLab International final in the UK in June. Lodging and $500 in travel support are available--sign up today at http://astrobiologyfamelab.arc.nasa.gov/. Contact daniella.m.scalice@nasa.gov with any questions.

To: Astrophysics and Exoplanetary Science Community
From: Astrophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
Date: January 2012
Subject: Call for Nominations to the Executive Committee of the Exoplanet Exploration Program Analysis Group (ExoPAG)

Dear Colleagues:

The Astrophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate is pleased to issue this open call for nominations to serve on the Executive Committee of NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program Analysis Group, or ExoPAG. In the coming months, NASA anticipates making four new appointments to the ExoPAG Executive Committee, to replace four current members who will be rotating off the committee after the semi-annual ExoPAG meeting in January (ExoPAG 5; information at http://exep.jpl.nasa.gov/exopag/exopag5). Appointments will be for a period of 3 years.

Study challenges existence of arsenic-based life, Nature

"A group of scientists, led by microbiologist Rosie Redfield at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, have posted data on Redfield's blog that, she says, present a "clear refutation" of key findings from the paper. But after Redfield and others raised numerous concerns, many of which were published as technical comments in Science, Redfield put the results to the test, documenting her progress on her blog to advance the cause of open science ... Redfield and her collaborators hope to submit their work to Science by the end of the month. She says that if Science refuses to publish the work because it has been discussed on blogs, it will become an important test case for open science."

- Arsenic, Astrobiology, NASA, and the Media, earlier post
- NASA Researchers Start To Backtrack on Earlier Claims, earlier post
- Snarky NASA SMD Response to Snarky Public Astrobiology Discussion, earlier post
- Weird Arsenic-Eating Microbes Discovered? Yes. Finding E.T.? No, earlier post
- Arsenic-Based Life Found on Earth, earlier post
- NASA's Astrobiology News: Arsenic Biochemistry Anyone? (Update), earlier post


Life's origin and existence in the universe are among the most profound riddles ever facing science. ILASOL is an Israeli scientific society devoted to these issues. ILASOL's yearly meeting gathers physicists, biologists, chemists, mathematicians, philosophers and researchers of other disciplines present works related to life's origin and astrobiology. Presentations are peer-reviewed in order to guarantee high scientific level, while enabling a friendly forum for novel and unorthodox ideas to be aired and assessed.

The 25th meeting took place during December 2011, and had a rich program which can be found at our web site: http://www.ilasol.org.il. The astrobiology session focused on the search of exo-planets (planets around other stars), in particular on the recent results from the Kepler mission and their implication for finding extra-terrestrial life, as well as the recent finding of comets with earthly water isotope ratio. Scientists, students and laypersons are welcomed to become ILASOL members (no charge), submit works and become involved in all our activities.

The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress is accepting applications and nominations for the new Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology.

Applications and nominations must be postmarked by Monday, February 13, 2012. For guidelines and forms, visit www.loc.gov/loc/kluge/fellowships/NASA-astrobiology.html . Candidates should apply directly using the online form. Nominations should be submitted in writing to scholarly@loc.gov.

The astrobiology chair is a new distinguished senior research position in residence at the Library's Kluge Center for a period of up to 12 months. This is an appointment made by the Librarian of Congress on the recommendation of a selection committee, which considers both applications and nominations. For the Library's announcement of the chair, visit http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2011/11-202.html .

Using the collections and services at the Library of Congress, the chair holder conducts research at the intersection between the science of astrobiology and its humanistic aspects, particularly its societal implications. The astrobiology scholar receives a stipend of $13,500 per month. The tenure is expected to begin in October 2012.

The NASA Astrobiology Institute is pleased to announce selections for research awards resulting from its 2011 Director's Discretionary Fund competition. The selections cover a wide range of research topics, from an examination of microbial succession on islands of floating pumice to defining the habitable zone's outer edge by combining climate evolution models with models of orbital and obliquity evolution.

Discretionary resources in the fiscal year 2012 NAI budget are extraordinarily limited. Since these are the funds from which we make 2011 DDF awards, we have been limited to a small fraction of the total award amounts of past years. Approximately $250K is allocated for the seven selected investigations described in the link below.

Selections were based on external reviews, with selection priority given to proposals that

* integrate the research of and realize synergies among the current NAI teams;

* expand the scope of NAI research (and the NAI community) in innovative ways, accepting some risk in return for high pay-off potential;

* respond in a timely way to new scientific results or programmatic opportunities;

* develop connections between astrobiology research and other NASA science programs, particularly NASA's Earth Science Program;

* directly support flight programs, particularly through instrument development;

* use funding particularly effectively, for example through leveraging or building on past investments; and/or

* support early career investigators

For more information and a list of selected research projects: http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/nai/funding/the-nai-directors-discretionary-fund/2011

In Memoriam: Lynn Margulis, 1938-2011

Evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis, a long-time member of the astrobiology community, died at her home on November 22. She was 73.

Margulis was brilliant, passionate, dedicated, and insatiably curious, about science, education, and life. A superb communicator as well as an outstanding scientist, she participated in hands-on teaching activities at levels from middle to graduate school, served as a faculty mentor at Boston University for years, gave much of her time to public speaking, and authored numerous books about science for scientific and public audiences, many with her son Dorion. She has been, and will remain, an inspiration to many women and men who have had the privilege of knowing her. She is irreplaceable, and the astrobiology community will miss her very much.

Always a pioneer, Margulis was the first female principal investigator of NASA's Exobiology Program (predecessor of Astrobiology), initially receiving funding for her research in microbial evolution and organelle heredity in the early 1970s. In 1980, Margulis established a Planetary Biology Internship (PBI) program, which the Exobiology/Astrobiology program has supported since its inception. Through the PBI program, which enables graduate students to work in the laboratories of scientists at NASA facilities and of NASA-supported scientists at universities, Margulis herself mentored many students who are now productive members of the astrobiology community. In 2010, Margulis served as a keynote speaker at a NASA symposium to mark the 50th anniversary of NASA's Exobiology/astrobiology program. (A video record of this talk is available at: www.livestream.com/astrobiology50th.)

We demonstrate that habitable Earth-type planets and moons can exist in the Kepler-16 system by investigating their orbital stability in the standard and extended habitable zone (HZ). We find that Earth-type planets in S-type orbits are possible within the standard HZ in direct vicinity of Kepler-16b, thus constituting habitable exomoons. However, Earth-mass planets cannot exist in P-type orbits around the two stellar components within the standard HZ. Yet, P-type Earth-mass planets can exist superior to the giant planet in the extended HZ pertaining to considerably enhanced back-warming in the planetary atmosphere if facilitated. We briefly discuss the potential detectability of such habitable Earth-type moons and planets positioned in S-type and P-type orbits, respectively.

Billy Quarles, Zdzislaw E. Musielak, Manfred Cuntz (Submitted on 11 Jan 2012)

Comments: 11 pages, 2 figures, 1 table; submitted to Astrophysical Journal Letters
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1201.2302v1 [astro-ph.EP]
Submission history
From: Manfred Cuntz [view email]
[v1] Wed, 11 Jan 2012 14:11:06 GMT (69kb)

The SETI Institute is pleased to announce that applications are now open for the 2012 REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program in Astrobiology and Planetary Science. Undergraduate students in fields such as astronomy, biology, geology, chemistry, and physics are invited to apply to spend 10 weeks in the San Francisco Bay area working on a scientific research project in the field of astrobiology or planetary science. Students receive a stipend, travel, and living expenses. Applications are due by February 1, 2012. For more information, visit http://www.seti.org/reu or contact Cynthia Phillips, phillips@seti.org, 650-810-0230.