A scientific expedition to a remote glacier field in Canada's High Arctic may help researchers unlock the secrets about the beginning of life and provide insights for future exploration of our solar system.
A team assembled by the University of Calgary's Arctic Institute of North America plans to spend two weeks studying a sulfur-spewing spring on the surface of an ice field not far from the North Pole this summer, after it was discovered by Institute Executive Director Dr. Benoit Beauchamp during his travels in the area. Beauchamp, U of C adjunct professor Dr. Steve Grasby from the Geological Survey of Canada, and two graduate students will conduct the first extensive study of the spring after initial tests showed the geological oddity is home to a unique form of bacteria that has adapted to thrive in a cold and sulfur-rich environment.
"We really want to try and understand the plumbing system for this spring and where all this sulfur is coming from," Beauchamp said. "This is a very unusual feature on the earth's surface and it's an extreme ecosystem that could be a good model for how life first begins in a harsh environment."
The spring has also attracted the attention of the Canadian Space Agency and NASA, which are helping to fund the expedition, because it likely provides the best example on Earth for the conditions believed to exist on the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. Ice-covered Europa is considered one of the best candidates for finding evidence of life on other planets within our solar system. Sending a probe to the planet is high on NASA's list of possible projects. Graduate student Damhnait Gleeson from the University Colorado, on a project sponsored by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will be taking part in the study to determine if it will be worthwhile testing spacecraft and remote-control rover equipment on the glacier in the future.
"These are exciting times for planetary exploration in Canada, said Dr. Alain Berinstain, Director of Planetary Exploration and Space Astronomy at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). "With the development of the Canadian Analogue Research Network (CARN) by the CSA, there are more opportunities than ever for Canadian researchers to further our understanding of other planets by studying analogues sites on Earth," Berinstain said. "These sulfur springs in the Arctic may just put us one step closer to answering that age old question: are we alone in the Universe?"
Beauchamp discovered the spring in the mid-1990s when he noticed a yellow stain on the snow while passing over the Borup Fiord Pass in a helicopter. He eventually visited the site and noticed the strong smell of rotten eggs that indicated the presence of sulfur. Grasby then visited the in 1999 and 2001 and collected samples of the water and mineral deposits from the spring, which contained new forms of bacteria and an extremely rare mineral known as vaterite.
Sulfur-loving organisms have been found living in extremely hot water around geothermal vents deep in the ocean floor but are seldom observed living in cold environments.
Beauchamp, Grasby, Gleeson and U of C graduate student Marie-Eve Caron leave for the glacier on June 21. From Ottawa, they will fly to Resolute, where they will be flown to the Eureka research station via Twin Otter airplane. The team will then reach the glacier by helicopter and set up a small camp near the base of the glacier where they will study the spring and acquire numerous water, mineral and rock samples.
Greenland ice flow likely to speed up: New data assert glaciers move over sediment, which gets more slippery as it gets wetter
17.08.2017 | Swansea University
Climate change: In their old age, trees still accumulate large quantities of carbon
17.08.2017 | Universität Hamburg
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences