Conferences and Meetings: July 2010

Abstract Submission Deadline: August 10, 2010

2010 Geological Society of America National Meeting: T110, Mountain Formation and Landscape Evolution in the Solar System: Implications for the Origin of Life.

Organizers: Joseph Kula, Suzanne L. Baldwin

Session Summary: Terrestrial mountain formation in the solar system is related to thermal decay, tectonics, and impact events. The processes and timescales of landscape evolution will be explored with implications for the origin and search for life.

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Join us for the second in a series of NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Program (NPP) seminars!

Date/Time: Monday, July 12th, 11am Pacific Time
Title: "Impact Bombardments on Early Earth and Mars: Implications for Habitability"
Speaker: Oleg Abramov, University of Colorado, Boulder

Abstract: Lunar rocks and impact melts, lunar and asteroidal meteorites, and an ancient martian meteorite record thermal metamorphic events with ages that group around and/or do not exceed 3.9 Gyr. That such a diverse suite of solar system materials share this feature is interpreted to be the result of a post-primary-accretion cataclysmic spike in the number of impacts commonly referred to as the late heavy bombardment (LHB). We report numerical models constructed to probe the degree of thermal metamorphism in the crust in the effort to recreate the effect of the LHB on the Earth and Mars; outputs were used to assess habitable volumes of crust for possible near-surface and subsurface primordial microbial biospheres. Our analysis shows that there is no plausible situation in which the habitable zone was fully sterilized on Earth and Mars, at least since the termination of primary accretion of the planets and the postulated impact origin of the Moon. Our results explain the root location of hyperthermophilic bacteria in the phylogenetic tree for 16S small-subunit ribosomal RNA, and bode well for the persistence of microbial biospheres even on planetary bodies strongly reworked by impacts. In fact, on Mars, the LHB may have been very beneficial for habitability by generating widespread hydrothermal activity, releasing water vapor into atmosphere, and likely temporarily changing global climate to a warmer and wetter state.

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Source: NAI Newsletter

Researchers from around the world participated in the first NAI Workshop Without Walls in March 2010--with no travel required. The workshop, on "The Organic Continuum from the Interstellar Medium to the Early Solar System," was organized by George Cody and Doug Whittet, PIs of the NAI's Carnegie Institution of Washington and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute teams, respectively. Drawing registrants from 21 US States and 16 other countries, the workshop was a great success in terms of the scientific knowledge exchanged, and as an illustration of the maturity of the NAI's suite of collaborative tools.

We have the technology! - and now we're ready for the next round of topics and organizers. NAI Central will offer full support for the technical production of a workshop, so that organizers can focus on the scientific content. George and Doug have offered their support to future workshop organizers to pass on their advice and lessons learned.

There are some significant advantages to organizing a "virtual" workshop compared to a typical in-person workshop. The timeline for producing the first Workshop Without Walls was just six weeks, from the issuance of the call for abstracts to the workshop itself--and could be even shorter for future workshops if desired. A Workshop Without Walls could be organized very quickly around a breaking discovery, for example. Carbon footprint is low and the fact that the workshop is accessible from anywhere in the world via the internet encourages broad international participation. One hundred percent of participants replying to a survey after the first workshop said they would attend future workshops of this kind.

If you're interested in organizing a Workshop Without Walls, have new ideas about how to use the NAI collaborative tools to advance science, or would simply like to know more, please contact Wendy Dolci (

For more information on the first Workshop Without Walls:

Source: NAI Newsletter