A new discovery on the tip of Antarctica is set to inform us about potential contact with aliens and the way to look for them on other planets. A bacteria has been discovered that can exist only from the chemicals in the air.
Up until now, we have only looked for evidence of life on other planets that could also live on earth. This one-track perspective meant we were limiting our search to only those things that could possibly cohabitate two worlds at the same time. We were taking a very general look at the phenomena that needed to be there. Things like water, carbon, and helium were seen to be mandatory in order for any life forms to exist.
This new discovery in Antarctica allows us to expand the focus of our research and look at bacteria level conditions that could exist on Earth and elsewhere.
The bacteria is essentially life in a form we are not used to seeing it in. Does it need to look like something familiar in order for us to believe it has life? This bacteria can live off of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide, and finally, scientists have been able to prove that it exists on earth in the harshest conditions. The lesson is that if it can exist in harsh climates on earth, it could possibly always exist in the harsh environs of other planets and moons.
We all know that Antarctica is one of the most hostile places on earth. Scientists assumed that the freezing temperatures, a lack of carbon, nitrogen and water made life up there almost impossible. Combine that with the UV radiation exposure and you can see why scientists came to such a conclusion.
The new research was reported in the journal Nature, a popular science journal where new research is often published. Scientists have found desert soils in the Antarctic that have quite rich microbial communities literally teaming with life.
“Here we provide evidence that atmospheric trace gases are the primary energy sources of two Antarctic surface soil communities,” the researchers explained in the paper.
“We propose that atmospheric H2O, CO2 and CO provide dependable sources of energy and carbon to support these communities, which suggests that atmospheric energy sources can provide an alternative basis for ecosystem function to solar or geological energy sources.”
What the research points out is that this microbial life can live without consistent sunlight, extremely limited nutrient resources and no heat produced from geothermal sources. The evidence was gathered from DNA sequencing and soil sample analysis of the desert soil up there.
“Although more extensive sampling is required to verify whether this process is widespread in terrestrial Antarctica and other oligotrophic habitats, our results provide new understanding of the minimal nutrient requirements for life and open the possibility that atmospheric gases support life on other planets.”
From now on, astronomers will no longer have to look for water on other planets as a potential source of life. It is now possible to trace back atmospheric gases to see if they hold life on other planets.