Sunday, August 2, 2009

Extremophiles on Europa or Titan?

true masked wabbit

Last night we were discussing the possibilities of bacterial life on either or both Moons of Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Titan.

Europa being an amazing –260oF yet it has liquid water under its thick sheet of ice and Europa's oxygen atmosphere is a million times thinner than Earth's. I believe that yes indeed it could have bacterial life and perhaps even life in an unknown capacity, as we may know it. No I’m not referring to aliens or little green men running around, I am however referring to the possibilities of life form such as extremophiles for Europa as well as Titan. I did mention that Europa also had volcanic signs. See photo above.Not all-bacterial life feed off life form or rather decayed life forms. Some receive through filtered waters seeping down into the depth of caves some amount of nutrients while some actually thrive very well with no nutrients coming from any known source and do quite well enjoying a snack off of the minerals in rocks. Also see How life began?But this would be talking about earth and we are talking about Europa (also Titan can be added into this conversation). Who is to say that the law of physics and the ecosystem as we know it would follow the rule on Europa?

An extremophile is an organism that lives in conditions that are outside of a normal range. So, for instance, above 40°C [104°F] is considered a thermophile and above 80°C [176°F] is a hyperthermophile. We have ones that like to live in really cold temperatures, near or below zero. We have ones that live in different pHs, the so-called acidophiles. Says Dr. Northrup That is what we have in Cueva de Villa Luz, microbes that produce sulfuric acid and live in an environment that's just like the inside of your car battery."Extremophile" is a very human-centric term. If you live at pH 0, to us that's extreme; we couldn't survive in that. But if you think about it from the microbes' point of view, it's just everyday.

We have already observed right here on earth that life form doesn’t necessarily follow rules as to what we mean by life form. Some live in ice, some in the heat of volcanoes some in extreme arid places. None of these places would allow us to live for very long and of course living in methane would be entirely out of the question for us.

In highly poisonous Cueva de Villa Luz, your gas monitor is like the canary in the coal mine: Its early warning could save your life. says Dr. Northrup a microbiologist and associate professor at the University of New Mexico and an associate in the university's Museum of Southwestern Biology.Considering that they think Europa could have liquid water under its surface of ice. I certainly think it's possible. Why not? The chemical conditions could be similar to what early Earth was like. Says Dr. Northrup.

Follow up from fundamental71

I had an interesting input form fundamental 71 that on europa, it is not so much a question of nutrients (in my mind), and more of a form of energy for example, you might want to consider that photosynthesis likely does not work on europa. which is something to consider. Of course, you do not allude to the contrary, so, this is "life without photosynthesis" which, is "strange" life, from a certain perspective. Says fundamental71.True I added but then again NASA has claimed there are possible volcanoes in the ocean under the ice and if so smokers could very well be present to which fundamental replied;smokers are likely certainly for the life to "start" anyways life might even be restricted to those smokers. He added; you might also want to examine the red coloration it has been suggested, that the surface red coloration comes from liquid water at depth, which seeps up through cracks, to be deposited (and freeze) on the surface but, for whatever reason, it is often stained red. Some thing it is staining from Io. a distinct possibility, could be also, the red color comes from microbes.I noted to fundamental that lime stone would colour the water red to which he replied; “limestone would indicate life as well.”I want to thank fundamental71 for his sincere input.
Now that NASA is quite serious about searching for life (in any form) here is an interesting article on the possibilities of life having once existed on Venus. Was Venus Alive? 'The Signs are Probably There' Note of Interest: Bacteria have been found thriving on the ocean floor. The sun's rays cannot penetrate this far so it is pitch dark. Near the Galapagos Islands, at a depth of 2500m, scientists discovered as many as 1 million bacteria cells per cm 3 of water. These bacteria produce their own food from sulphur compounds in this hot water.

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