Russian Scientists Prove Life Can Survive on Mars, Venus, and Jupiter’s Ice Moon

Article by Sput Nick                        April 26, 2020                      (sputniknews.com)

• Researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Space Research Institute conducted simulations of Venus’ atmospheric conditions and discovered that microscopic fungi can survive and thrive in high levels of ionizing radiation and sharp jumps in temperature. Scientists believe that microorganisms may be present in the upper layers of Venus’s atmosphere.

• The researchers also studied microorganisms in temperatures of -50 degrees Celsius (minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Arctic to simulate conditions on the surface of Mars. Here too, the bacteria proved quite adaptable to survival.

• The Russian scientists then studied soil bacteria present in the Mojave Desert, which is considered analogous to the kinds of microbial communities that may be found on Mars. The micororganisms were highly resistant to temperature, pH levels, and the presence of salts and strong oxidizing agents.

• The researchers also tested whether microorganisms could survive in conditions found on Jupiter’s moon, Europa, known to have a water-ice crust. Recreating bacteria embedded in ice at -130 degrees Celsius (minus 202 degrees Fahrenheit), scientists found that the bacteria could still theoretically survive at depths of 10-100 cm over a period of 1,000-10,000 years in the moon’s subglacial oceans.

• The prestigious Space Research Institute is a complement to Russia’s manned space program, taking part in multiple ongoing Roscosmos, European Space Agency and NASA missions on the study of the solar system, and goes back to Soviet-era probes of Venus and Mars.

 

Theories about the possible habitability of Earth’s closest neighbours go back to the dawn of the space age, with scientists creating increasingly complex instruments to try to confirm beyond a doubt whether such life exists in the years since.

Researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Space Research Institute have completed simulations of the Venetian atmosphere’s conduciveness to sustaining life, discovering that micromycetes (a type of microscopic fungi) can survive and thrive in Venus-like atmospheric conditions, where high levels of radiation and sharp jumps in temperature are the norm. Specifically, laboratory testing found that high doses of ionizing radiation do not lead to the fungi’s demise.

Scientists conducted their experiments on the basis of long-held scientific theories that microorganisms associated with mineral particles may be present in the upper layers of Venus’s atmosphere.

The researchers also performed research involving microorganisms found in the Arctic to simulate conditions on the surface of Mars – subjecting them to radiation and temperatures of -50 degrees Celsius. Here too, scientists found that the bacteria proved quite adaptable to survival.

Additionally, the Russian scientists studied soil bacteria present in the Mojave Desert, considered by many academics to be a terrestrial analogue to the kinds of microbial communities that may be found on Mars. The research showed that these micororganisms are highly resistant to a range of stress factors, such as cultivation temperature, pH levels, and the presence of salts and strong oxidizing agents.

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Astronomers Have Formula for Finding Subsurface Oceans in Exomoons

Article by Erik Arends                             April 23, 2020                            (phys.org)

• In the search for extraterrestrial life, we have typically looked at Earth-like planets at a distance from their parent star where the temperature is between the freezing and boiling point of water. But as in our own solar system, most of the liquid water seems to be outside of this ‘habitable zone’ on moons where interior water is heated beyond the melting point by tidal forces.

• In our solar system only Mars and Earth have ‘habitable’ surfaces. But moons within our solar system, such as Enceladus, Europa and six other moons of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, are examples of celestial bodies that are freezing cold on the surface but may harbor habitable subsurface oceans.

• Researchers from SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research and the University of Groningen (RUG) have derived a formula that indicates whether a subsurface ocean is present on an ‘exomoon’ and how deep it is. Adding moons to the equation, exoplanet hunters have a much larger field of potentially habitable places to search for extraterrestrial life. In fact, “there could be four times as many habitable exomoons as exoplanets,” says lead author Jesper Tjoa.

• The formula analyzes factors including the diameter of the moon, the distance to its planet, the thickness of the gravel layer on the surface, and the thermal conductivity of the ice or soil layer below the surface to provide a lower limit for the ocean depth.

• Just as “astronomers study starlight shining through the atmospheres of exoplanets” to identify oxygen, for example, says Tjoa, future telescopes “may see geysers like on Enceladus, stemming from a subsurface ocean”, as an indication of life there.

 

So far, the search for extraterrestrial life has focused on planets at a distance from their star where liquid water is possible on the surface. But within

              Jesper Tjoa

our Solar System, most of the liquid water seems to be outside this zone. Moons around cold gas giants are heated beyond the melting point by tidal forces. The search area in other planetary systems therefore increases if we also consider moons. Researchers from SRON and RUG have now found a formula to calculate the presence and depth of subsurface oceans in these ‘exomoons.”

In the search for extraterrestrial life, we have so far mainly looked at Earth-like planets at a distance from their parent star where the temperature is between the freezing and boiling point of water. But if we use our own Solar System as an example, moons look more promising than planets. Enceladus, Europa and about six other moons of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune may harbor a subsurface ocean. They all reside far outside the traditional habitable zone—it is literally freezing cold on the surface—but tidal interaction with their host planet heats up their interior.

With moons entering the equation, exoplanet hunters such as the future PLATO telescope—which SRON is also working on—gain hunting ground regarding the search for life. When astronomers find a so-called exomoon, the main question is whether liquid water is possible. Researchers from SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research and the University of Groningen (RUG) have now derived a formula telling us whether there is a subsurface ocean present and how deep it is.

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NASA Scientist Reveals Potential Black Hole Home for ET

 

Article by Sean Martin                            March 14, 2020                             (express.co.uk)

• NASA astrophysicist Jeremy Schnittman saw the 2014 movie ‘Interstellar’ in which it’s star, Matthew McConaughey, goes in search of a habitable planet for humans to live on as Earth is dying. The film’s scientists discover planets orbiting a black hole which could sustain life. Schnittman wanted to test the real-life feasibility of whether energy given off by a black hole could be enough to support life.

• Schnittman wrote a paper on it, and it was published in the journal arXiv. In it he says that “the Sun provides almost all the energy necessary for life on Earth to survive. Without it’s constant heat flux, the oceans would likely freeze over in a matter of days.” Likewise, black holes can provide their own energy source, in the form of radiation from hot, accreting gasses. The friction generated by ‘accretion discs’, ie: materials or objects orbiting a black hole that are constantly pushed and shoved by the extreme gravitational force, could produce a tremendous amount of energy. This could replace the star (Sun) allowing life to exist. (see 37 second video below of flaring black hole)

• Schnittman notes that the radiation energy coming from a black hole would be potentially “lethal” to any life. “All known life forms require an energy gradient in order to survive, so an all-pervasive black-body radiation background would probably not be very conducive to complex life.”

• In reality, there are factors that would prevent the Earth from turning to a radiant black hole for its survival if our Sun was dying. First, the Sun is too small to become a black hole. It would need to be about 20 times larger. It is predicted that the Sun will use up its supply of hydrogen in about 5 billion years, when it will condense into a white dwarf. Second, as the nearest black hole is located 6,523 light-years away, or 6,523 x 5.88 trillion miles, even if we could find a habitable planet nearby, this is too far for humans to reach (with our current technology that is).

 

            Jeremy Schnittman

The amount of energy given off by a black hole could be enough to support life, expanding the possibilities of where humans should search for extraterrestrials. NASA astrophysicist Jeremy Schnittman based his research on the hit Hollywood movie Interstellar, in which the main character, played by Matthew McConaughey, goes in search of a habitable planet for humans to live on as Earth is dying. In the 2014 movie, the scientists discovered planets orbiting a black hole which could sustain life. Mr Schnittman wanted to test the real-life feasibility of this.

The scientist said accretion discs, made up of materials and objects orbiting a black hole, could allow life to exist.

The friction generated by these discs as they are pushed and shoved by the extreme gravitational force is so large that it can produce a tremendous amount of energy, depending on the size of the black hole.

While the Sun gives Earth energy through light and heat, the radiation and energy from the accretion discs might prove just as valuable.

Mr Schnittman wrote in the paper published in the journal arXiv: “On the down side, the Sun provides almost all the energy necessary for life on Earth to survive. Without it’s constant heat flux, the oceans would likely freeze over in a matter of days.

“But we also know that many astrophysical black holes can provide their own energy source, in the form of radiation from hot, accreting gas.
“In fact, for most observable black holes, this accretion power outweighs anything attainable from nuclear fusion by many orders of magnitude.

37 second video depicting black hole flaring (UoS News Desk YouTube)

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