Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Newly discovered salty subglacial lakes could help search for life in solar system

12.04.2018

Researchers from the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) have helped discover the first subglacial lakes ever found in the Canadian High Arctic.

The two new lakes are a potential habitat for microbial life and may assist scientists in the search for life beyond Earth. The findings, published in the April 13 edition of Science Advances, were made possible by airborne radar data acquired by UTIG and NASA and represent a new collaboration between Canada and the United States. Lead author Anja Rutishauser is a Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta who will join The University of Texas at Austin as a postdoctoral fellow when she finishes her degree.


A cold and windy spring night on the vast landscape of Devon Ice Cap where two subglacial lakes are lurking 750 meters below the surface.

Credit: Anja Rutishauser

While there are more than 400 known subglacial lakes in the world, concentrated primarily in Antarctica with a few in Greenland, these are the first found in the Canadian Arctic. And unlike all the others--which are believed to contain freshwater--these two appear to consist of extremely salty water. All subglacial lakes are good analogues for life beyond Earth, but the hypersaline nature of the Devon lakes makes them particularly tantalizing analogues for ice-covered moons in our solar system, researchers said.

In 2011, researchers from UTIG showed that Jupiter's icy moon Europa, likely contains hypersaline lakes of liquid water within an ice shell that floats atop of a global ocean. The new lakes observed in Canada are very similar to these potential lakes locked inside Europa's icy shell. An analysis of radar data, show that the lakes discovered in Canada are located beneath 550 to 750 meters of ice underneath the Devon Ice Cap, one of the largest ice caps in the Canadian Arctic. They are thought to be the first isolated hypersaline subglacial lakes in the world, having no contact with an outside environment for thousands of years.

"If there is microbial life in these lakes, it has likely been under the ice for at least 120,000 years, so it likely evolved in isolation," Rutishauser said. "If we can collect a sample of the water, we may determine whether microbial life exists, how it evolved, and how it continues to live in this cold environment with no connection to the atmosphere."

By evaluating the airborne survey data and, eventually, samples from the lake, scientists can better prepare for NASA's forthcoming Europa Clipper mission, which plans to deploy similar remote sensing techniques to characterize Europa's ice shell, said co-author Donald Blankenship, a UTIG senior research scientist. Blankenship is leading the development of the ice penetrating radar sounder for the Clipper mission, an instrument very similar to the one used to discover the Canadian lakes.

Researchers with Montana State University, Stanford University, and the Cambridge University Scott Polar Research Institute also worked on the project. In addition to Blankenship, UTIG researchers Jamin Greenbaum, Cyril Grima and Duncan Young worked on the study. UTIG is a research unit of the UT Jackson School of Geosciences. The same research team is currently planning a return to the Canadian Arctic in spring 2018 for additional data acquisition over the lake area and surrounding ice caps with support from Canada's W. Garfield Weston Foundation.

"It's amazing how the trilateral collaboration between Canadian, U.S. and UK universities to understand ice cap response to climate change evolved into a paradigm shift in our perspective on potential terrestrial analogs for extraterrestrial habitats," Blankenship said.

###

UTIG's data acquisition and processing were supported by NASA's Instrument Concepts for Europa Exploration Program, the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation and the National Science Foundation; additional data used in the research were acquired by NASA's Operation Icebridge Mission. Blankenship was supported by the Fulbright Scholar Program for data interpretation and synthesis activities. The project was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, the CRYSYS Program (Environment Canada), and the UK Natural Environment Research Council.

Media Contact

Anton Caputo
anton.caputo@jsg.utexas.edu
512-232-9623

 @UTAustin

http://www.utexas.edu 

Anton Caputo | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-04/uota-nds040918.php

Further reports about: Arctic Blankenship ice caps microbial life solar system

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Root exudates affect soil stability, water repellency
18.04.2018 | American Society of Agronomy

nachricht Stronger evidence for a weaker Atlantic overturning
12.04.2018 | Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

Im Focus: The Future of Ultrafast Solid-State Physics

In an article that appears in the journal “Review of Modern Physics”, researchers at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (LAP) assess the current state of the field of ultrafast physics and consider its implications for future technologies.

Physicists can now control light in both time and space with hitherto unimagined precision. This is particularly true for the ability to generate ultrashort...

Im Focus: Stronger evidence for a weaker Atlantic overturning

The Atlantic overturning – one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards – is weaker today than any time before in more than 1000 years. Sea surface temperature data analysis provides new evidence that this major ocean circulation has slowed down by roughly 15 percent since the middle of the 20th century, according to a study published in the highly renowned journal Nature by an international team of scientists. Human-made climate change is a prime suspect for these worrying observations.

“We detected a specific pattern of ocean cooling south of Greenland and unusual warming off the US coast – which is highly characteristic for a slowdown of the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

New capabilities at NSLS-II set to advance materials science

18.04.2018 | Materials Sciences

Strong carbon fiber artificial muscles can lift 12,600 times their own weight

18.04.2018 | Materials Sciences

Polymer-graphene nanocarpets to electrify smart fabrics

18.04.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>