Scientists Stunned By Discovery About The Solar System

Posted: Jul 8 2018, 11:40pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
A photograph of Mars, via the European Space Agency
A photograph of Mars, via the European Space Agency

Researchers are finding evidence that bacteria may be strong enough to survive on planets like Mars.

In a remarkable new study, scientists have found that bacteria can survive even in the harsh conditions of outer space, showing that they are far more resilient than scientists realized. It is a finding that could have tremendous implications in our search for life outside of Earth and in our solar system, as it shows that life may be able to exist even in the harshest conditions.

In the past month, scientists have discovered organic material on both Mars and the Saturn moon Enceladus. Scientists also believe that the Jupiter moon Europa could have hydrothremal vents that are similar to those on Earth, which is where scientists believe life may have begun many hundreds of millions of years ago.

This new research indicates that microbes could survive in the extreme conditions on Mars, Europa, Enceladus, and many other worlds scattered across our solar system, let along our galaxy and the universe as a whole.

For this study, researchers from Germany, the UK, and the United States examined a microbe named Planococcus halocryophilius, which is found in the Arctic in extraordinarily harsh conditions. They bombarded the bacteria with chemical solutions, and submerged it in a toxic chemical compound common on Mars.

"I'd be surprised if microbes haven't evolved a way to deal with that toxicity," Arizona State University PhD student Theresa Fisher told Astro Biology Magazine. "Bacteria, when stressed, have shock responses. They manufacture specific proteins that help them adjust, survive, and cope with detrimental environments."

Even with the presence of a perchlorate, it "wouldn’t preclude life on Mars or elsewhere,” said lead author Jacob Heinz of the Technical University of Berlin’s Center of Astronomy and Astrophysics, according to the magazine. “Bacteria in ten percent mass perchlorate solutions can still grow.” Mars’s surface soil contains less than one weight percent of perchlorate, but Heinz points out that salt concentrations in solutions are different than those in soil.

The Microbe Wiki describes Planococcus halocryophilus as an aerobic, gram positive bacterium found in arctic permafrost.

"This extremophile is characterized as both halophilic and psychrophilic, thriving in an environment of high salinity as well as an extremely low temperature," the wiki states. "This bacterium's reproduction capability is measured at the lowest recorded temperature, measured at -15ºC. Planococcus halocryophilus continues to preserve itself at temperatures as low as -25ºC. The bacterium is accountable for effects of global warming, bringing about sizable CO2 emissions concurrent to melting permafrost. Astrobiological research towards this extremophile is resonant owing to its similitude of potential target environments for life on Mars."

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