Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA Project Eyes Climate Change in Greenland -- with a Third Eye on Mars

13.05.2011
Indiana University Bloomington scientists will use knowledge about methane production by cold-weather microbes on Earth to help NASA zero in on evidence for similar, carbon-based microbes that could have evolved on Mars, the Jovian moon Europa, or Saturn's Enceladus.

The three-year project, funded by a $2.4 million grant from NASA's Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) program, will be led by biogeochemist Lisa Pratt.

Her team will conduct field research in Greenland using the Kangerlussuaq International Science Support Facility as the base of operations and moving instruments and equipment to the Arctic with the 109th New York Air National Guard, which provides logistical support for NASA- and National Science Foundation-run research projects in remote polar regions.

"In order to be prepared for robotic or human exploration of other habitable worlds, scientists and engineers need to thoroughly test instruments and exploration concepts in extreme environments on Earth," said Pratt, Provost's Professor of Geological Sciences. "These environments mimic, in some ways, the places we expect to explore for evidence of extraterrestrial life."

Pratt will work with 11 colleagues at IU Bloomington, Princeton University, the Goddard Space Flight Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Honeybee Robotics Inc., and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a division of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce. Their primary goals: study methane release near the receding edge of Arctic ice sheets to glean clues about how life might exist at the edge of extraterrestrial ice sheets, and evaluate methods to determine whether sources of methane are biotic or abiotic in origin.

On Earth, some methane is produced abiotically through water-rock reactions and thermogenically through breakdown of petroleum by geological processes. And some of Earth's methane comes directly or indirectly from bacteria -- either as a waste product or through the fermentation of acetate (vinegar) into methane and carbon dioxide. Both methane and carbon dioxide are greenhouse gases.

"Acetate fermentation is the principal pathway accounting for as much as 95 percent of methane production in these cold environments," said co-Principal Investigator Jeffrey R. White, an IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs professor of environmental science. "In fact, some of these cold-loving, acetate-producing bacteria may be metabolically coupled to the methane-producing bacteria."

Pratt recently concluded a directorship of a NASA Astrobiology Institute team that studied energy and nutrient cycles that sustain life in the deep subsurface of Earth and, potentially, Mars. One of the fruits of that project was the discovery of bacteria on Earth that live kilometers below ground, in solid rock, and use the byproducts of irradiated water as a source of energy.

The connection between Earth and environs elsewhere in the solar system is a necessary part of astrobiology. We only know of life on our own planet, so the conditions that support life on Earth are our only point of reference for what's possible on Mars, Europa, and Enceladus, the three bodies currently deemed most likely to harbor (or to have once harbored) life.

"Our work on methane cycling in warming tundra ecosystems fits well with the objectives for exploration of methane cycling on Mars -- a target of the upcoming missions," White said.

The study of global climate change on methane production is also of interest to researchers whose chief and perhaps only interest is what's happening on our planet.

"One other key aspect of this project is the ASTEP requirement for the field campaign to address an important Earth science question," Pratt said. "Our proposal was competitive because of the importance of documenting how methane is released from permafrost settings on Earth during a time of rapid de-glaciation."

To speak with Pratt or White, please contact David Bricker, University Communications, at 812-856-9035 or brickerd@indiana.edu

David Bricker | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.indiana.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA finds newly formed tropical storm lan over open waters
17.10.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline
16.10.2017 | Aarhus University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Osaka university researchers make the slipperiest surfaces adhesive

18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Los Alamos researchers and supercomputers help interpret the latest LIGO findings

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>