microbes!!!

Ocean Worlds Beyond Earth

We’re incredibly lucky to live on a planet drenched in water, nestled in a perfect distance from our sun and wrapped with magnetic fields keeping our atmosphere intact against harsh radiation and space weather.

We know from recent research that life can persist in the cruelest of environments here on Earth, which gives us hope to finding life thriving on other worlds. While we have yet to find life outside of Earth, we are optimistic about the possibilities, especially on other ocean worlds right here in our solar system.  

So…What’s the News?!

Two of our veteran missions are providing tantalizing new details about icy, ocean-bearing moons of Jupiter and Saturn, further enhancing the scientific interest of these and other “ocean worlds” in our solar system and beyond!

Cassini scientists announce that a form of energy for life appears to exist in Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and Hubble researchers report additional evidence of plumes erupting from Jupiter’s moon Europa.

The Two Missions: Cassini and Hubble

Cassini

Our Cassini spacecraft has found that hydrothermal vents in the ocean of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus are producing hydrogen gas, which could potentially provide a chemical energy source for life.

Cassini discovered that this little moon of Saturn was active in 2005. The discovery that Enceladus has jets of gas and icy particles coming out of its south polar region surprised the world. Later we determined that plumes of material are coming from a global ocean under the icy crust, through large cracks known as “tiger stripes.” 

We have more evidence now – this time sampled straight from the plume itself – of hydrothermal activity, and we now know the water is chemically interacting with the rock beneath the ocean and producing the kind of chemistry that could be used by microbes IF they happened to be there.

This is the culmination of 12 years of investigations by Cassini and a capstone finding for the mission. We now know Enceladus has nearly all the ingredients needed for life as we know it.

The Cassini spacecraft made its deepest dive through the plume on Oct. 28, 2015. From previous flybys, Cassini determined that nearly 98% of the gas in the plume is water and the rest is a mixture of other molecules, including carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia. 

Cassini’s other instruments provided evidence of hydrothermal activity in the ocean. What we really wanted to know was…Is there hydrogen being produced that microbes could use to make energy? And that’s exactly what we found!

To be clear…we haven’t discovered microbes at Enceladus, but vents of this type at Earth host these kinds of life. We’re cautiously excited at the prospect that there might be something like this at Enceladus too!

Hubble

The Hubble Space Telescope has also been studying another ocean world in our solar system: Europa!

Europa is one of the four major moons of Jupiter, about the size of our own moon but very different in appearance. It’s a cold, icy world with a relatively smooth, bright surface crisscrossed with dark cracks and patches of reddish material.

What makes Europa interesting is that it’s believed to have a global ocean, underneath a thick crust of ice. In fact, it’s got about twice as much ocean as planet Earth!

In 2014, we detected evidence of intermittent water plumes on the surface of Europa, which is interesting because they may provide us with easier access to subsurface liquid water without having to drill through miles of ice.

And now, in 2016, we’ve found one particular plume candidate that appears to be at the same location that it was seen in 2014. 

This is exciting because if we can establish that a particular feature does repeat, then it is much more likely to be real and we can attempt to study and understand the processes that cause it to turn on or off. 

This plume also happens to coincide with an area where Europa is unusually warm as compared to the surrounding terrain. The plume candidates are about 30 to 60 miles (50 to 100 kilometers) in height and are well-positioned for observation, being in a relatively equatorial and well-determined location.

What Does All This Mean and What’s Next?

Hubble and Cassini are inherently different missions, but their complementary scientific discoveries, along with the synergy between our current and planned missions, will help us in finding out whether we are alone in the universe. 

Hubble will continue to observe Europa. If you’re wondering how we might be able to get more information on the Europa plume, the upcoming Europa Clipper mission will be carrying a suite of 9 instruments to investigate whether the mysterious icy moon could harbor conditions favorable for life. Europa Clipper is slated to launch in the 2020s.

This future mission will be able to study the surface of Europa in great detail and assess the habitability of this moon. Whether there’s life there or not is a question for this future mission to discover!

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

i love you. [delete]
did you ever love me? [delete]
was i just somebody you used to make you feel better about yourself? [delete]
well, here’s me making you feel better about yourself: you’re the most amazing person i’ve ever met in my life. nobody could ever take your place. i love you more than words can say. [delete]
yeah, you fucked me over, but i still think you’re great. i don’t know if that says more about me or more about you. i don’t know if that makes me pathetic or kindhearted. i always saw the good in you. [delete]
i know i didn’t always act like you were important to me. i’m sorry for that. i’m sorry i didn’t shove it down your throat every day, tell you that you were worth everything to me; i’m sorry i held your mistakes against you so much. i’m sorry i didn’t realize you were struggling too. [delete]
you’re still the first person i want to tell anything to. like did you hear who our ex-friend is hooking up with? did you see that facebook status? did you see that car crash on route 29? did you know there are more microbes on your body than people on earth? [delete]
i know i said leave but i really meant i’ll be waiting for you to come back. my friends say it’s not permanent; i can go back whenever i want to. i know i can but i left for a reason. it hurts so much that you don’t want me. [delete]
i keep thinking i can convince you to choose me. who wouldn’t want someone who loves them this much? i want to shower you with compliments just so you realize what you lost. [delete]
but i also want you to know you’re special. i want you to know somebody loves you, even if they’re far away. i want you to know how you lifted my spirits by just existing. [delete]
but then i think: where’s my “i love you”? where’s my “thank you for existing”? where’s my “you’re special” and “i appreciate you” and “you’re important to me”? why am i always the one trying to make this work? why don’t you value me? [delete]
you told me you’d always answer my text messages, probably even in your sleep. i can’t believe someone so goddamn beautiful could do such ugly things. [delete]
—  delete delete delete

Okay, so this one takes some explaining. After I went away to school, my cat would only drink water out of a glass on the kitchen table and only if someone was sitting with him (that’s His Glass in the foreground). He will still only drink out of this glass, although he will drink alone, but if the water is more than like an hour old, he won’t touch it. My mom has decided that it is because someone told him about ‘microbes’ and so ‘microbes’ has become a running gag in our family. 

And then, just today, my dad texted me this picture without context. I have never seen this book before in my life. But there it is. Puck finally found proof of his microbes. 

If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things - praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts - not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
—  C.S. Lewis, On Living In An Atomic Age
bbc.com
There are diseases hidden in ice, and they are waking up
Long-dormant bacteria and viruses, trapped in ice and permafrost for centuries, are reviving as Earth's climate warms
By Jasmin Fox-Skelly

In a 2005 study, NASA scientists successfully revived bacteria that had been encased in a frozen pond in Alaska for 32,000 years. The microbes, called Carnobacterium pleistocenium, had been frozen since the Pleistocene period, when woolly mammoths still roamed the Earth. Once the ice melted, they began swimming around, seemingly unaffected.

Frozen permafrost soil is the perfect place for bacteria to remain alive for very long periods of time, perhaps as long as a million years. That means melting ice could potentially open a Pandora’s box of diseases.

DON’T FEED DEER CORN IN WINTER

I know a lot of folks feel sorry for deer in the winter, especially when it looks like there’s not much for them to eat. I also know that some people, having seen deer eating gleanings out of fields, think it’s helpful to leave some corn out for the deer. As a nutritionist, I beg you, DON’T. 

Deer are ruminants, which means digestion relies on microbes in their gut to help break down forages. These microbes undergo seasonal changes, and in winter, fiber-digesters are the dominant type. If deer suddenly eat a large amount of starch-rich food, like corn, what few starch-digesting microbes are in the gut quickly get overwhelmed, and acidosis develops. This can lead to a quick, painful death. What started out as kindness becomes cruelty.

Deer take 2-4 weeks to adapt their guts to changes in diet.  In the wild, this happens as the seasons change, and the deer are fine. But if you overwhelm their gut with energy-rich food in a time of the year when they’re living a lot off of high-fiber food and their own fat reserves, it can lead to sickness and often to death. 

Even if it doesn’t kill them, congratulations, your yard is now a place where they expect food. You may have deer fighting for access to the food, or spreading disease. And things that eat deer now know they can find food near your house.  This can be dangerous to people who let their pets outside - coyotes may view small pets as a snack, as can feral dogs. Not to mention the last thing you want is those same predators getting used to people. Increased deer in residential neighborhoods also increases the risk of deer-car collisions.

In the winter, deer are usually living off of the fat reserves they built all year. Unless it is unusually cold and the county is putting out food, best not to. Deer can handle themselves.  

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“Aerosolized microorganisms may play an important role in climate change, disease transmission, water and soil contaminants, and geographic migration of microbes. While it is known that bioaerosols are generated when bubbles break on the surface of water containing microbes, it is largely unclear how viable soil-based microbes are transferred to the atmosphere. Here we report a previously unknown mechanism by which rain disperses soil bacteria into the air. Bubbles, tens of micrometres in size, formed inside the raindrops disperse micro-droplets containing soil bacteria during raindrop impingement. A single raindrop can transfer 0.01% of bacteria on the soil surface and the bacteria can survive more than one hour after the aerosol generation process. This work further reveals that bacteria transfer by rain is highly dependent on the regional soil profile and climate conditions.” Via.

Finding life on Mars has captured the imagination of generations, but experts still aren’t sure what exactly we’re looking for. The Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, with a landscape of boiling pools of water and mounds of salt and sulfur that itself seems extraterrestrial, might offer some clues. Despite being one of the lowest, hottest and driest places on Earth, the region is host to extremophiles–– microbes that thrive in these inhospitable conditions.

Dr. Felipe Gómez Gómez of the Centro de Astrobiología in Madrid, who is working on isolating and studying these bacteria, believes learning to identify life in extreme environments here on Earth is the key to identifying any alien life that might be out there.

“What is life? What are the limits of life? Scientists don’t agree on what is life,” Dr. Gómez said. “If we find life on Mars, would we be able to recognize it? We don’t know.”

These organisms might also provide insight into how potential life-forms might survive in the sparse environment of Mars. From the article:

These simple organisms can survive with a “very small battery,” and were probably among the first bacteria on Earth, Dr. Gómez said. “That is what makes them so interesting from an astrobiological point of view.”

Organisms such as chemolithotrophs don’t require traditional means of sustenance like light and organic compounds and instead use inorganic compounds such as sulfide, hydrogen and ammonia as energy sources. Though they might be a far cry from little green men with antennae, they could offer us a more realistic idea of what to expect if and when we finally make “first contact”.

Read more at The New York Times here.

Ocean Worlds: The Story of Seas on Earth and Other Planets

So far, every volume signed Jan Zalasiewicz had proved a geological pleasure (as indeed have all the others in the series on Earth Systems Science that OUP have been releasing), and this latest instalment (the second book he’s co written with Mark Williams) did not disappoint my high expectations. While it isn’t an overview of the current state of oceanography, it provides a pleasant and fascinating romp through all things ocean, from the origin of the water in comets, through their role in the great cycles of the elements to the current ecological catastrophe shaping up in the planet’s seas.

Keep reading

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PETRI SPORES /

A combination of ink, water, marbling oils, tonic water and digital post production were used to create this series. ‘Grown’ inside petri dishes, I made several lifts from each dish to create a print. After some minor retouching and hue alterations I was left with these! Part microbial, part cosmic - these artworks were re-printed at high resolution and exhibited inside petri dishes on heavy gauge gloss card. I wanted to create something a little less predictable to hand out at an exhibition, but something that would act as a signifier of my interest within scientific experimentation. 

*Please credit these images to Robbie Anson Duncan

MACRON ET TRUDEAU!!! CA Y'EST !!! submission by @p-andore

Débat d'entre-deux tours

Résumé des 2h du débat de ce soir :

Arguments de MLP : « Macron, vous êtes nul, vous êtes un banquier d'affaires, vous avez vendu SFR, les bateaux, Alstom, la France et votre mère. Vous êtes un soumis européiste islamiste et vous êtes responsable de tous les maux de cette planète, du chômage, des inégalités, du réchauffement climatique, de la mort du chat de ma voisine et de l'existence des pizzas à l'ananas »

Arguments de Macron : « Je ne vais pas vous dire que vous êtes une grosse connasse de merde qui ne raconte que des conneries, hein, je ne vais pas le dire parce que moi je suis sympa, mais bon, faudrait quand même que les Français le sachent »

Un débat à la hauteur de la France.