Astrobiology: From Extremophiles in the Solar System to Extraterrestrial Civilizations
Life on Earth is ubiquitous. Most of the organisms that we know thrive in normal environments that we consider to be ambient habitats. Extremophiles are among the microorganisms living on the edge of life under severe conditions. In recent years microorganisms have been discovered living in extreme environments, such as very high temperature (up to 115°C), and also at very low temperature (∼ minus 20°C). In addition, they can also withstand a variety of stresses, amongst them we mention both ends of the pH range; very strong acidity vs. high alkalinity; saturated salt solutions and high hydrostatic pressure. Astrobiology considers the possibility that extraterrestrial civilizations may be present in some exoplanets in the large suite that has been discovered so far. The instruments of research are radio telescopes. Astrobiology also raises the possibility of life elsewhere in the Solar System. (The most promising examples are Mars, Europa, and possibly Titan and Enceladus). We suggest that if microbial communities can thrive under extreme conditions on Earth, they could also emerge on extraterrestrial environments.
KeywordsSolar System Radio Telescope Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Terrestrial Planet Solar System Body
The senior author (JS) thanks the Israeli and Hungarian Academies of Sciences and Humanities for their kindly support towards and during the conference of Astronomy and Civilization in Budapest (Aug. 2009).
- Adam D. 2000. Hardcore hibernation. Published online. Nature 19 October. doi:10.1038/news001019-9.Google Scholar
- Arahal, D.R., M.C. Marquex, B.E. Volcani, K.H. Schleifer, and A. Ventosa. 1999. Bacillus marismortui sp. nov., a new moderately halophilic species from the Dead Sea. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 49: 521–530.Google Scholar
- Bertolani, R., R. Guidetti, K.I. Jönsson, T. Altiero, D. Boschini, and L. Rebecchi. 2004. Experiences with dormancy in tardigrades. Journal of Limnology 63(Suppl 1): 16–25.Google Scholar
- Chela-Flores, J. 1998. A search for extraterrestrial eukaryotes: Physical and biochemical aspects of exobiology. Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere 28: 583–596. http://www.ictp.trieste.it/~chelaf/searching_for_extraterr.html
- Chela-Flores, J. 2000. Testing the Drake Equation in the solar system. In A new era in astronomy, eds. G.A. Lemarchand and K. Meech, vol. 213, 402–410, ASP Conference Series. Genentech: San Francisco. http://www.ictp.trieste.it/~chelaf/TestingDrakeEq.html
- Chela-Flores, J., and N. Kumar. 2008. Returning to Europa: Can traces of surficial life be detected? International Journal of Astrobiology 7(3): 263–269 (copyright holder: Cambridge University Press). http://www.ictp.it/~chelaf/JCFKumar.pdf
- Coustenis, A., and F.W Taylor. 2008. Titan exploring an earthlike world. 2nd ed. Singapore: WSP, 412 pp.Google Scholar
- Doran, P.T., W. Stone, J. Priscu, C. McKay, A. Johnson, and B. Chen. 2007. Environmentally non-disturbing under-ice robotic Antarctic explorer (ENDURANCE). American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting, abstract #P52A-05.Google Scholar
- Ekers, R.D., D. Kent Cullers, J. Billingham, and L.K. Scheffer. 2002, SETI 2020: A roadmap for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Mountain View: SETI Press, 549 pp.Google Scholar
- Grasset, O., J.-P. Lebreton, M. Blanc, M. Dougherty, C. Erd, R. Greeley, B. 2009. Pappalardo and the joint science definition team, “The Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter as part of the ESA/NASA Europa jupiter system mission (EJSM),” EPSC Abstracts 4: EPSC2009-784, European Planetary Science Congress, Rome.Google Scholar
- Grom, J. 2009 Ancient ecosystem discovered beneath Antarctic glacier. Science Now. Daily News, 16 April.Google Scholar
- Horvath, J., F. Carsey, J. Cutts, J. Jones, E. Johnson, B., Landry, L. Lane, G. Lynch, J. Chela-Flores, T.-W. Jeng, and A. Bradley. 1997. Searching for ice and ocean biogenic activity on Europa and Earth. In Instruments, methods and missions for investigation of extraterrestrial microorganisms, ed. R.B. Hoover, 490–500. SPIE Proceedings, 3111, San Diego. http://www.ictp.it/~chelaf/searching_for_ice.html
- Hoyle, B. 2001. Ancient bacteria may be oldest life form. American Society for Microbiology News 67. http://newsarchive.asm.org/jan01/topic4.asp.
- Oard, M.J. 2001. Aren’t 250 million year old live bacteria a bit much? Creation Ministries International, Article 2415.Google Scholar
- Oren, A. 1988. The microbial ecology of the Dead Sea. In Advances in microbial ecology, ed. K.C. Marshall, vol. 10, 193–229. New York: Plenum Publishing Company.Google Scholar
- Seckbach, J. 2010. Overview of Cyanidian biology. In Red algae in genome age, eds. J. Seckbach and D. Chapman. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 343–354.Google Scholar
- Singer, E. 2003. Vital clues from Europa. New Scientist Magazine 2414: 22–23. http://www.ictp.it/~chelaf/VitalClues.pdf
- Smith, A., I.A. Crawford, R.A. Gowen, A.J. Ball, S.J. Barber, P. Church, A.J. Coates, Y. Gao, A.D. Griffiths, A. Hagermann, K.H. Joy, A. Phipps, W.T. Pike, R. Scott, S. Sheridan, M. Sweeting, D. Talboys, V. Tong, N. Wells, J. Biele, J. Chela-Flores, B. Dabrowski, J. Flannagan, M. Grande, J. Grygorczuk, G. Kargl, O.B. Khavroshkin, G. Klingelhoefer, M. Knapmeyer, W. Marczewski, S. McKenna-Lawlor, L. Richter, D.A. Rothery, K. Seweryn, S. Ulamec, R. Wawrzaszek, M. Wieczorek, I.P. Wright, and M. Sims. 2008. LunarEX – A proposal to CosmicVision. Experimental Astronomy. 10.1007/s10686-008-9109-6. http://www.ictp.it/~chelaf/Penetrator.pdf
- Vreeland, R.H., W.D. Rosenzweig, and D.W. Powers. 2000. Isolation of a 250 million-year-old halotolerant bacterium from a primary salt crystal. Nature 470: 1075–1077.Google Scholar