Astrobiology (general): May 2013

Recently the Brazilian Network of Astrobiology (Rede Brasileira de Astrobiologia - RBA) was created. Linked to the Research Unit in Astrobiology (NAP-Astrobio) of the Universidade de Sao Paulo (USP). NAP-Astrobio is an international partner of important institutions in the area, such as the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) and the European Astrobiology Networks Association (EANA).

Smartphone Becomes a Tricorder

Researchers and physicians in the field could soon run on-the-spot tests for environmental toxins, medical diagnostics, food safety and more with their smartphones. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers have developed a cradle and app for the iPhone that uses the phone's built-in camera and processing power as a biosensor to detect toxins, proteins, bacteria, viruses and other molecules.

The temperature in the permafrost on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian high Arctic is nearly as cold as that of the surface of Mars. So the recent discovery by a McGill University led team of scientists of a bacterium that is able to thrive at -15oC, the coldest temperature ever reported for bacterial growth, is exciting.

For centuries, humans have pondered what life on other planets beyond our solar system might be like. With the launch of the Kepler spacecraft in 2009 we now have evidence for the widespread existence of such planets.

The symposium will highlight the similarities and contrasts between the environments of the terrestrial planets: Venus, Earth, Mars, and Titan. Presentations will cover current Earth climate models, Earth observation, past and current Venus missions (as a laboratory for Earth climate), observational studies of the Terrestrial planets (exoplanets), and the influence of the Sun on climate. The Symposium will conclude with a panel discussion and Q/A.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has named Steven J. Dick as the second Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology in the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. The chair is a joint project between the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the Kluge Center.