In search of the coldest places on Earth


09/08/2010

Two British scientists on a journey to one of the coldest places on Earth to understand how life is possible on other planets with a similar climate in our Solar System.

Professor at the University of Leeds Liane Benning (Liane Benning) and Dr. Dominique Tobler of the University of Glasgow (Dominique Tobler), will travel to the island of Svalbard to investigate how the terrain covered with snow and ice were inhabited first ekstramofilnymi organisms that live and thrive in harsh conditions .

A team of scientists will conduct two weeks on Svalbard from 6 to 20 August, and it will be part of a research program Europlanet Research Infrastructure’s Transnational Access Programme. The expedition is only the first step in a large international project AMASE (Advanced Materials Science and Engineering), which is the use of harsh places on Earth as a test bed for technologies that will be used in future missions, NASA and ESA Mars titled "In Search of life. "

"Frozen snow and frost - a good example of ice and frost on the ground covering the Martian poles or other icy planets in the solar system, like the moons of Jupiter - Europe" - said Prof. Bening.

Organisms that live here have evolved eating food not numerous, with large temperature fluctuations, dehydration and high levels of ultraviolet radiation. For example, snow algae produce pigments carotenoids, which protect them from UV rays and are the reason that the snow turns bright red.

"If we can learn more about how can emerge and evolve life in these areas, and the survival strategies used by organisms, it will give us a better chance to find life on other planets with similar extreme conditions."

To date, studies of microorganisms in kriomire focused on the discovery of life in the depths of sublednikov or thawed voids on the surface. The signs of life are present in the surface layers of ice and snow have not been studied extensively.

The team will collect samples of snow-covered areas, which are near the research station and from more remote glacial places where they will get by helicopter.

The samples will be filtered, stored, and shipped to the UK for laboratory analysis. The research team will study microorganisms in passing on the spot, using the "apparatus for the detection of life" that will enable them to determine the number of live and dead cells, catalog, biodiversity, investigate the geochemical composition of inorganic samples and analyze the DNA of microorganisms.

"It’s a bit like holding forensics in the snow," - said Prof. Bening. "Just as forensic team investigating a crime scene, we have to make sure that did not bring any contaminants in the studied areas."

"The sensitivity of our equipment plays a key role. If life exists on other planets, it is likely to be present in very small amounts - just a few cells on a large amount - so we need very sensitive equipment that can detect even small signs. If we do not draw properly, these experiments on Earth, we will have little chance of these operations elsewhere in the Solar System. " Today’s news widgets to help you follow the course of the global economy.

Original: Sciencedaily.com Translation: M. Potter


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