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 Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores
07.12.2016 | Santa Fe Institute

nachricht Sea ice hit record lows in November
07.12.2016 | University of Colorado at Boulder

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling

07.12.2016 | Life Sciences

How to turn white fat brown

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>