(for more about Power Words, click here)
apatite A type of mineral, containing calcium and phosphate, which exists in some rocks and some types of fossils. It also is a component of bones, fish scales and the hard white enamel of teeth.
astrobiology The study of life everywhere in the universe, including on Earth and in space. People who work in this field are known as astrobiologists.
biogeochemistry A term that covers processes that cycle (or eventually deposit) pure elements or chemical compounds (including minerals) between living species and nonliving parts (such as rock or soil or water) within an ecosystem. A scientist who works in this field is a biogeochemist.
biology The study of living things. The scientists who study them are known as biologists.
carbon The chemical element having the atomic number 6. It is the physical basis of all life on Earth. Carbon exists freely as graphite and diamond. It is an important part of coal, limestone and petroleum.
chemical A substance formed from two or more atoms that unite (bond) in a fixed proportion and structure. For example, water is a chemical made when two hydrogen atoms bond to one oxygen atom.
colleague Someone who works with another; a co-worker or team member.
dinosaur A term that means terrible lizard. These ancient reptiles lived from about 250 million years ago to roughly 65 million years ago. All descended from egg-laying reptiles known as archosaurs.
environment The sum of all of the things that exist around some organism or some device and the condition those things create for that organism or device.
filament Something with a thin, thread-like shape.
fossil Any preserved remains or traces of ancient life. There are many different types of fossils: The bones and other body parts of dinosaurs are called “body fossils.” Things like footprints are called “trace fossils.” Even specimens of dinosaur poop are fossils. The process of forming fossils is called fossilization.
Greenland The world’s largest island, Greenland sits between the Arctic Ocean and North Atlantic. It is technically part of North America (sitting just east of Northern Canada), and its ice sheet is the world’s largest.
hematite A reddish-brown to black iron-based mineral, it’s the principle source of iron ore.
hydrothermal vent An opening at the bottom of the ocean or a lake where hot water emerges from deep inside Earth. The water is rich in minerals and chemicals that can nourish ecosystems of worms, clams, microbes and other organisms.
iron A metallic element that is common within minerals in Earth’s crust and in its hot core. This metal also is found in cosmic dust and in many meteorites.
mechanism The steps or process by which something happens or “works.”
microbe Short for microorganism. A living thing that is too small to see with the unaided eye, including bacteria, some fungi and many other organisms such as amoebas. Most consist of a single cell.
microscopic An adjective for things too small to be seen by the unaided eye. It takes a microscope to view such tiny objects, such as bacteria or other one-celled organisms.
mineral The crystal-forming substances, such as quartz, apatite, or various carbonates, that make up rock. Most rocks contain several different minerals mish-mashed together.
NASA Short for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Created in 1958, this U.S. agency has become a leader in space research and in stimulating public interest in space exploration. It was through NASA that the United States sent people into orbit and ultimately to the moon. It also has sent research craft to study planets and other celestial objects in our solar system.
organism Any living thing, from elephants and plants to bacteria and other types of single-celled life.
paleobiology The study of organisms that lived in ancient times — especially geologically ancient periods, such as the dinosaur era. Scientists who work in this field are known as paleobiologists.
propulsion The act or process of driving something forward, using a force. For instance, jet engines are one type of propulsion for keeping airplanes aloft.
remnant Something that is leftover — from another piece of something, from another time or even some features from an earlier species.
scenario An imagined situation of how events or conditions might play out.
sea An ocean (or region that is part of an ocean). Unlike lakes and streams, seawater — or ocean water — is salty.
stromatolite A type of layered rock that forms when cyanobacteria in water create huge communities. Their sticky surfaces trap sediments floating in the water. That accumulating sediment reacts with calcium carbonate in the water. This creates limestone, which builds up very, very slowly. A century-old stromatolite may grow a mere 5 centimeters (2 inches) in size.
unique Something that is unlike anything else; the only one of its kind.