Thursday, 6 April 2017

E is for Extremophile

Astrobiology is a genuine field of science that studies how life could happen in the universe. While Earth is teeming with biology, it is unfair to compare the rest of the Solar System with our prolific-ness. Could life, in some form, exist elsewhere in the Solar System? If so, and knowing what conditions are there, what form would that life take? Enter extremeophiles, those hardy little unicelluar organisms that absolutely insist on dwelling in places we never thought life was possible.

It's all about figuring out what kind of organisms can survive what kinds of conditions. Looking to known extremophiles on Earth, we've got little critters living in boiling hot springs in Yellowstone, thriving in the saltiest lakes in Utah and cheerfully metabolising away in Antartica. If they can live under such extreme conditions here on Earth, why not elsewhere?

Life on Mars?  Still possible in microbial form. While the radiation-scorched surface where water can't exist in liquid form may appear quite inhospitable, the potential for liquid water below the surface still exists. Life as we know it needs water. We know water ice exists on Mars and water vapour has been detected. Extremophile organisms could dwell underground, or even in the polar ice caps.

And Mars might not be the only place in our Solar System that could host microbial life. Jupiter's moon Europe and Saturn's moons Titan and Enceladus have conditions that might be favourable to extremophiles.

Hardcore: Astrobiology and Extremophiles

Where do you think the most likely place to find extremophile life is on Mars? What kind of extremophile?

Her Grace has spent a wee bit of time in the field of astrobiology, probably the best use of those Cell Bio classes she took her Freshman and Sophomore years at university.


I.L. Wolf said...

I absolutely think, given the vastness of the universe, life must exist elsewhere. Is it complex?

Who knows.

But extremophiles are fascinating. Nice choice!

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sage said...

I am learning a lot in your posts. You are taking a more serious direction on astronomy than me. I just like feeling like the stars are my friends. The only time I play with the science of the skies is attempting to learn to use a sextant (actually, it's more math than science)

Chris Votey said...

Isn't Europa also a consideration for life?