A Rensselaer-led Astrobiology team will be among the first to be granted access to the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). During a series of nighttime flights on this airborne observatory, the team will make observations to search newly born stars for the presence of precursors to life. The scientists, led by Doug Whittet, director of the New York Center for Astrobiology at Rensselaer, will use the observatory’s infrared spectroscopic capabilities to search for a suite of molecules in clouds of dust and gas surrounding the stars. Their work is part of the first season, or cycle, of research to be performed aboard SOFIA, the largest airborne observatory in the world. Click here for the full story.
One of the perks of having friends in high places is the “behind-the-scenes tour” and this past weekend, the Rensselaer community got a multimedia tour from some very well-placed friends: the Rensselaer School of Science Dean Laurie Leshin, and three Rensselaer alumni, all of whom are working on NASA’s Curiosity Rover mission, currently roving the surface of Mars… Click here for more and for link to video of entire event.
Now that NASA rover Curiosity is safely on the ground, it’s starting to take its bearings and perform its mission—analyzing the rock and soil of the Martian surface for clues to the planet’s past, particularly with regard to the presence of water, and the potential for habitability… Click here for full story.
At 1:32 a.m. Eastern time today, the NASA rover Curiosity safely touched down on the surface of Mars after a journey of more than 300 million miles and a harrowing descent from orbit, complete with parachutes, rockets, and the perilous sky crane maneuver. As a member of the science team for Curiosity, Rensselaer Dean of Science Laurie Leshin traveled to California for the landing, and will be working with the team to analyze data from the rover. Leshin wrote about the importance of the mission, and the hope that it will engage young people in the pursuit of math and science, in an article that appeared in Sunday’s edition of the Albany Times Union.
The School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute seeks to hire a tenure-track faculty member in Astrobiology. Applicants should have research interests and expertise that synergize with on-going research activities in the New York Center for Astrobiology. Applications received by October 31, 2012 are assured fullest consideration. Click here for further details.
The weekly WAMC public radio show The Best of Our Knowledge features a series of interviews and discussions with faculty, teachers and students associated with the New York Center for Astrobiology, and with visiting speakers in our Seminar series. These segments continue a long tradition of Astrobiology content on WAMC, which began 14 years ago in fall of 1998, sponsored by the Astrobiology Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and its predecessor, the New York Center for Studies on the Origins of Life, with support from NASA. Past segments are available for online streaming.
The 4th annual Astrobiology Teachers Academy was held on the RPI campus, July 9-13, attended by 24 high school and middle school science teachers from New York State – by far the largest number we have hosted. The teachers worked with faculty from the New York Center for Astrobiology and with education experts from the Association for the Cooperative Advancement of Science Education to develop ideas, strategies and resources to integrate astrobiological themes into their classrooms. The intrinsic fascination of astrobiology and the search for life on other planets provides a highly effective means of engaging the students in the STEM disciplines.
The Astrobiology Teachers Academy has also launched its facebook page.
Forty-eight middle school students from the Capital District spent two weeks designing space suits, building rockets, and learning about astrobiology at the annual ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at RPI. Teams of students developed proposals for missions to search for life in the Solar System that were evaluated by scientists from the NYCA. Click here for an overview of the program; click here for details of some activities.
Scientists at Syracuse University – part of NAI’s team at RPI – report new information about the history of water on Mars in the current issue of Planetary and Space Science. Focused on the hematite spherules known as the “blueberries” discovered by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in 2004, the study suggests that ages measured using the relative abundances of uranium, thorium, and helium in the blueberries could yield the time that has passed since water last wetted the sediments.
Students, mentees, and scientific collaborators of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor of Chemistry James Ferris gathered at a special session of the 2012 Astrobiology Science Conference in Atlanta, Ga., on April 19 to honor the scientist. The session titled “The Origin of Biomolecules in Planetary Environments: From HCN to RNA” was dedicated to Ferris for his seminal research into the origins of life on Earth and its potential to form on other planets. Click on the links below for details:
Webcast of the presentation (requires Adobe Connect)
Click the links below for press releases and other highlights from the New York Center for Astrobiology for the calendar year 2011:
- TEDx Talk: “Is anyone else out there? NASA’s Search for life in the Galaxy” by John Delano
- Setting the stage for life: Scientists make key discovery about the atmosphere of early Earth
- Astrobiologists discover “sweet spots” for the formation of complex organic molecules in the Galaxy
- From Stars to Life: Astrochemistry presentation at the Origins 2011 Conference
- New technique can reveal Mars’ watery past
- Rensselaer Astrobiologist wins Murchison Medal
- Senior NASA scientist Laurie Leshin joins Rensselaer as Dean of the School of Science
- Celebrating RPI’s contributions to space exploration
- ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at RPI
- Nicolle Zellner receives $121,000 research grant from NASA Astrobiology Institute
- New York Center for Astrobiology Center featured in RPI Alumni Magazine