A2: Microbes in the News

Article: 7 Alien ‘Earths’ May Be Swapping Life via Meteorites

Link: National Geographic, Mar 22, https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/earth-planets-aliens-life-panspermia-space-science/

Summary: On Feb 23, NASA reported that they found other solar system about 39 light years away from our solar system, called TRAPPIST-1 and some of planets in TRAPPIST-1 have liquid water. This release gave a shock to the world and someone may think that extraterrestrial life is existing now. According to the new research from Manasvi Lingam and Abraham Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics released on Mar 15 that seven planets in TRAPPIST-1 is condensed around the stellar host so that the seeds of life can jump from one planet to other planet by debris. This research support the theory of panspermia, which maintains the origin of life came from the space to Earth. In TRAPPIST-1, all planets are located close to each other and distance between them is much shorter than the distance between Earth and Mars, so it’s easy to approach to other planets in TRAPPIST-1. Also, three planets out of seven planets may have liquid water and is located in habitable zone, so they think if they have moderate temperature and atmosphere, life can exist there. However, some astronomers are suspicious of this because they think life can’t stand the harsh condition while they are traveling. In the space, there are lots of cosmic rays and they can be exposed for more than million years. In addition, they receive a huge shock when they land on some planets. Though some member in the team says it’s really difficult to survive in the harsh condition, but some organism like extremophiles can overcome it. They don’t find plausible evidence yet, but it is a good chance for us to think about what is panspermia theory and where life come from.

Connection: The idea of ubiquitous is relate to this article. It is also relate to the origin of life(LUCA).

Critical analysis: Discovering of the TRAPPIST-1 was amazing. However, I’m wondering how microbes can jump from one planet to the other. This news said some researchers thinks it’s difficult for some microbes to survive in the space for long time due to UV or cosmic rays. While, other researchers says extremophiles can survive because some has tolerance for UV or heat. I’m suspect for this idea. If microbes can jump to other planet, we can find microbes from meteorites which come to the earth. Inside the meteorites, there are lots of Carbon sources, but their shock when land on some planet or heat can sterile them. However, the distance between one planet to the other is shorter than the distance between the Earth and Mars. Therefore, maybe, if their travel is short, some may survive and land on other planet, but it’s rarely happened.

Question: Why it support panspermia theory? How to jump to other planet from the ocean in the planets in TRAPPIST-1?

A2: Microbes in the News

Article: 60,000-year-old microbes found in Mexican mine: NASA scientist

Link: PHYS, https://phys.org/news/2017-02-year-old-microbes-mexican-nasa-scientist.html

Summary: The research team from NASA found some microbes which is 60,000-year-old in the Naica mine in Mexico and revived them. Penelope Boston of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute said that in that mine, they found some crystals and inside of that, they found lots of microbes and viruses and they were alive, but they were locked by the crystal. Naika is the mine region and inside the mine, temperature is so high, so those area is extreme environment. When the researchers conducted research, they wore a spacesuit and an ice bag. Then, those microbes and viruses were picked up. They are really different from other well known microbes in terms of genome. It’s 10% difference between them and some microbes which has the closest genome sequence and this difference is like between humans and mushrooms. Those microbes lay dormant in the layer of minerals. Penelope said they adapted to their harsh environment and this discovery is just an one example how organisms in the earth are strong.

Connections: It’s relate to microbial ubiquitous and some extrememophiles.

Critical analysis: This mine is really hot and dark and nutrient are limited, so for almost all of organisms, it’s absolutely extreme environment. However, some microbes and viruses can exist in those environment. I was surprised when I read this article, but I am wondering why genome became different from others due to living inside crystals? This article said they are different like human to mushrooms. However, human and mushrooms are completely different from the shape, complexity, habitat and foods etc and they are microbes, but genome is different at 10%, so I’m confused.

Question: How to survive in the crystal even they can’t move? Why they are totally different from other microbes in terms of genome?

A2: Microbes in the News

Article: Balloon Experiment Reveals Earth Microbe’s Likely Fate on Mars

Link: SPACEREF MARS TODAY , https://astrobiology.com/2017/04/balloon-experiment-reveals-earth-microbes-likely-fate-on-mars.html

Summary: To know the limit of what microbes can stand is important for preventing contamination of Mars when our spacecraft arrive. In October 2015, a giant balloon launched to the sky, which is an altitude of 31 kilometers to find microbes which is contaminated and brought by human experiment. Another study found that almost all of bacteria will die within few days by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. David J. Smith of NASA’s Ames Research Center, conducted the experiment ,called the Exposing Microorganism in the Stratosphere(E-MIST), and this experiment brought samples, which is in the phase of endospore from the atmosphere. This result suggests that microbes which stick to a spacecraft to Mars can manage to survive the journey.

Connections: This topic is connected to the idea like “Microbes are everywhere’ even in the atmosphere.

Critical analysis: This article said microbes are dormant or endospores when they are in the atmosphere. However, if they find some microbes, it’s possibly from somewhere in the earth sticked to human made aircraft. Or, if microbes are in dormant or endospores and they are packed by meteorite, the shock is huge when they land on the surface on Mars. Therefore, even they have tolerance for UV, it’s difficult to survive in the space.

Question: How microbes can survive in the space when they are dormant or endospores?

Rei Shibue: Microbial art

I’m an exchange student from Japan, so I drew something relate to Japan. First one is Mt. Fuji, which is the highest mountain in Japan. Second one is a national flag of Japan and underneath the flag, I wrote “日本(Ni-hon)” , it’s a chinese character and means “Japan”. Third one is Pikachu and I chose it because Pikachu is the most famous character from Japan.

Rei Shibue

Hi! I’m Rei Shibue!

I’m an international exchange student from Japan and now I’m senior.

My major is Astrobiology and mainly, I’m studying about some microbes which live in extreme environment like polar region, volcano or deep sea.

Fairbanks is an extreme environment for me. It’s too cold and I wanna go back to Japan(just kidding).