The hunt for alien life starts in Earth’s most extreme places

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Microbiologist Jill Mikucki went to Antarctica final yr on a particular mission: She was on the lookout for indicators of what life on different planets and moons may appear to be. Her work is a part of an effort to grasp the origins of life—not simply in our world, however within the photo voltaic system—by analyzing the organisms that thrive in Earth’s most excessive environments.

In a salty, ferrous glacial waterfall generally known as Blood Falls, her workforce beforehand found a brand new pressure of micro organism tailored to outlive in brutally chilly temperatures. The panorama appears virtually Martian.

By finding out the chemistry, bodily properties and biology of Antarctica’s icy ecosystems, scientists are hoping they’ll not solely uncover what makes life at extremes tick, but in addition decide the place to look—and what to search for—after they ship satellites and robots to discover different probably liveable planets and moons. Antarctica’s ice-covered coastal areas and frozen lakes, as an example, mimic the geology that planetary scientists anticipate to come across within the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, which have ice-shelled salty oceans.

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