Astrobiology: November 2009 Archives

New Study Adds to Finding of Ancient Life Signs In Mars Meteorite, NASA

"Using more advanced analytical instruments now available, a Johnson Space Center research team has reexamined the 1996 finding that a meteorite contains strong evidence that life may have existed on ancient Mars."

More Mars Meteorite ALH84001 Discoveries Published, earlier post

Keith's note: This is interesting news. Yet I see no mention that NASA HQ issued the release - or makes mention of it on, at SMD, or on its Mars page but JSC's website mentions it. Yet the one places where you'd most expect to find mention, NASA's main Astrobiology website and the NASA Astrobiology Institute website, have no mention of this press release or featured publications. Oh yes - it was published three weeks ago.

Curiously, NASA's Astrobiology program emerged back in 1996/1997 as a direct result of the announcement of the initial ALH84001 research results. How odd that the same topic gets such little attention today. Then again, the JSC press release does not bother to offer a link to - or mention of - NASA's Astrobiology program. Similarly odd.

Inevitably, if you dig deep enough you will see that this is all about turf - who funded what (or who did not fund it or who used to fund it but no longer does ad nauseum) and the buzz word(s) associated with that money. In my mind, as far as this research goes, "astrobiology" = "exobiology" = "life on Mars". NASA funded this research - not a subunit or fiefdom thereof. What are all of you stove pipe polishers going to do when all of the pending new White House-driven educational projects are launched at NASA? Are you going to be hindered by these self-imposed semantic and budgetary sandboxes when you try to explain topics to students?

Origins of magnetite nanocrystals in Martian meteorite ALH84001, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Volume 73, Issue 21, 1 November 2009, Pages 6631-6677

"We conclude that the vast majority of the nanocrystal magnetites present in the carbonate disks could not have formed by any of the currently proposed thermal decomposition scenarios. Instead, we find there is considerable evidence in support of an alternative allochthonous origin for the magnetite unrelated to any shock or thermal processing of the carbonates."

Keith'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.

Prepare for Contact, Letters of Note

"Here's a 1924 telegram from then Chief of U.S. Naval Operations, Edward W. Eberle, instructing all Naval stations to monitor the airwaves for any unusual transmissions due to anticipated contact from Martians. August 22nd of that year was witness to the closest Mars opposition since 1804 (a mere 55,777,566 km), and as such provided desirable conditions in which to receive radio signals from the Red Planet. The man tasked with clearing the airwaves - a Professor David Todd - somehow managed to persuade both the Army and Navy to report any findings for a three day period, but failed to silence the country's private radio broadcasters for even two days. Needless to say, the three day exercise produced nothing but static."



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