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Edinburgh Scientists Bid To Join NASA

Last Updated on Sunday, 02 May 2010 15:15
Published on Friday, 25 February 2005 00:00

 

In response to an initiative from NASA, a group of Edinburgh geologists, biologists and astronomers hoping to participate in the new NASA Astrobiology Institute (NABI) have formed the Edinburgh Astrobiology Consortium. On Tuesday 31st March, Dr Ray Wolstencroft of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, will tell the National Astronomy Meeting at the University of St Andrews about the research the group want to do.

"Astrobiology is a huge subject" says Dr Wolstencroft. "You can probably best describe it as 'the study of life in the universe'. Interest in astrobiology is growing rapidly thanks to the recent discoveries of planets around nearby stars, possible though controversial evidence of fossils in a Martian meteorite and the accumulating evidence that terrestrial organisms can thrive in a wide variety of extreme environments. NASA is keen to encourage much more research in astrobiology."

"A major goal for NASA is to develop an understanding of whether there is life elsewhere other than on Earth, where life may be found and how best to detect it. NASA is also interested in how terrestrial organisms may adapt and evolve in extraterrestrial environments. All this needs teams of researchers including international experts in different areas of science."

The Astrobiology Institute will be a 'virtual institute' of geographically separate research groups located around the world and will be managed by the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View California. To overcome the difficulties of such widely separated groups working together, the Institute is experimenting with advanced electronic connections based on the Next Generation Internet.

The work proposed by the Edinburgh Astrobiology Consortium(EAC) includes:

 

  • Very remote sensing of vegetation on Earth-like planets

  • Theoretical studies of photosynthesis on Earth-like planets orbiting stars hotter or cooler than the Sun

  • Early development of life on the Earth

  • Evolution of primordial bacteria from deep ocean sediments.

     

The EAC members are:

 

  • Ray Wolstencroft, Alistair Glasse, Mark Casali (Royal Observatory Edinburgh)

  • Paul Jarvis (Dept of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Edinburgh)

  • John Raven (Dept of Biological Sciences, University of Dundee)

  • Francois-Marie Breon (Laboratoire du Climat, Paris)

  • Nicholas Barton, William Hill, Andy Leigh-Brown (Institute of Cell, Animal and Population Biology, University of Edinburgh)

  • Dick Kroon (Dept of Geology and Geophysics, University of Edinburgh)

  • Colin Graham (Dept of Geology and Geophysics, University of Edinburgh)

  • Andrew Lawrence (Institute of Astronomy, University of Edinburgh)

The Edinburgh proposal is one of 70 submitted to NASA from groups around the world, and the Consortium is waiting to hear whether its bid has been successful.

 

Contact for Further Information

Dr Ray Wolstencroft, Royal Observatory, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh EH9 3HJ. Tel 0131 668 8307; FAX 0131 662 1668 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Contact Information for the National Astronomy Meeting, University of St Andrews:

Press room (open 8.30 - 18.00 Tue 31 March to Thur 2 April; 9.00 - 12.00 Fri 3 April): Phone: 01334-462168 and 01334-462169; Fax: 01334-463130

 

 
Issued by:
Dr Jacqueline Mitton, RAS Public Relations Officer
Phone: Cambridge ((0)1223) 564914
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