Astrobiology (journal): February 2009

Geological and biological evidence suggests that Earth was warm during most of its early history, despite the fainter young Sun. Upper bounds on the atmospheric CO2 concentration in the Late Archean/Paleoproterozoic (2.82.2 Ga) from paleosol data suggest that additional greenhouse gases must have been present.

Availability of reduced nitrogen is considered a prerequisite for the genesis of life from prebiotic precursors. Most atmospheric and oceanic models for the Hadean Earth predict a mildly oxidizing environment that is conducive to the formation and stability of only oxidized forms of nitrogen.

Based on new image data from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), a case can be made that several structures in Vernal Crater, Arabia Terra are ancient springs. This interpretation is based on comprehensive geomorphologic analysis coupled with assessment of multiple hypotheses.

Liquid water is essential to life as we know it on Earth; therefore, the search for water on Mars is a critical component of the search for life. Olivine, a mineral identified as present on Mars, has been proposed as an indicator of the duration and characteristics of water because it dissolves quickly, particularly under low-pH conditions. The duration of olivine persistence relative to glass under conditions of aqueous alteration reflects the pH and temperature of the reacting fluids.

This study identifies transcriptional regulation of stress response element (STRE) genes in space in the model eukaryotic organism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. To determine transcription-factor dependence, gene expression changes in space were examined in strains bearing green fluorescent proteintagged (GFP-tagged) reporters for YIL052C (Sfp1 dependent with stress), YST-2 (Sfp1/Rap1 dependent with stress), or SSA4 (Msn4 dependent with stress), along with strains of SSA4-GFP and YIL052C-GFP with individual deletions of the Msn4 or Sfp1.

Astrobiological Polarimeter

Chirality is an excellent indicator of life, but naturally occurring astrobiological (as well as terrestrial) samples nearly always exhibit massive depolarizing light scattering, which renders conventional polarimeters useless. For astrobiological applications, we instead consider a novel polarimeter originally developed for non-invasive human-glucose measurement. It involves deliberately rotating in time the plane of polarization of a linearly polarized beam and detecting the shift in the plane of the rotating linearly polarized component of the transmitted light from a chiral sample relative to the input polarization plane. We find that this polarimeter can operate in 3 orders of magnitude more depolarizing scattering than conventional polarimeters. Furthermore, it can also be designed to be lightweight, compact, and energy efficient.

Astrobiology. December 2008, 8(6): 1061-1069.