Interesting hypothesis that Europa's seas are swimming with bacteria.
December 13, 2001 7:17 PM   Subscribe

Interesting hypothesis that Europa's seas are swimming with bacteria. Preliminary results show that all three species, the ordinary gut bacteria Escherichia coli, and extremophiles Deinococcus radiodurans and Sulfolobus shibatae, are just as good at explaining Europa's IR spectrum as the [magnesium sulphate] salts.
posted by skallas (10 comments total)
Have they found the Monolith yet?
posted by riffola at 9:35 PM on December 13, 2001

Suuuuure. And the moon is covered in craters because it's teeming with acne bacteria.

Everyone knows that the Moon is cratered because of the gas bubbles that formed as the cheese cooled. And everyone knows that Europa is red and streaky because it's made of Red Vines.
posted by scarabic at 9:35 PM on December 13, 2001

When I first read that I thought it was about Europe.

Damn, evidence of life on Europa would be something. I wonder if this will also set off a wave of interest in checking other moons for signs of water and life.
posted by mattpfeff at 9:38 PM on December 13, 2001

Some other articles along the same tangent (from the Resanet pages). Halobacteria are the reason Why Owens Lake Is Red!, and some interesting studies are described in Evaluating the Biological Potential in Samples Returned from Planetary Satellites and Small Solar System Bodies.
posted by bragadocchio at 10:13 PM on December 13, 2001


the thing about Europa is that it looks like it's got oceans of water - the other satellites and rocky planets have little to none.

except Mars of course :)

not to say a full solar system water audit might be worth doing - it would be relatively cheap and might have enormous rewards.

Moon water would be useful simply because it's on the moon :-P

Enceladus may be another gas giant satellite with liquid water. Unlikely though.

Mercury is already known to have water at the poles. But why go there?
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:54 PM on December 13, 2001

Actually, theres also evidence that Callisto has an ocean.

But, Europa is still the prime candidate for extremophile bacteria. If the bacteria turn out to be E. Coli itself and not just something E. Coli-like, does this support panspermia ?
posted by vacapinta at 11:13 PM on December 13, 2001

The only way to determine conclusively whether two life forms appeared separately or came from the same stock will be to actually get sample of them and to figure out their transfer RNA. If the hypothetical bacteria on Europa use the same conversion map from triples to amino acids as we do, then it's panspermia. If it's close but slightly different, the same is true.

If it bears no resemblance, then it's a separate creation of life.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:23 PM on December 13, 2001

Simply having RNA would be enough evidence for panspermia; our genetic system is an evolved process itself.
posted by skyline at 11:52 PM on December 13, 2001

vacapinta - I don't have the figures to hand, but isn't Callisto well inside the killer Jupiter magnetic field?
(bad excuse I know, but dammit all my books are in the UK and I'm too tired to do any more web searches)

skyline - dead right, except that you don't go far enough. If the (hypothetical) lifeforms used even recognisable proteins, in the sense that Earth organisms use them as well, lots of hard thinking would have to be done.

No reason why they should of course, but if they do the Central Dogma of DNA (DNA writes RNA writes protein - no U-turns) may have to be re-considered. And given that amino acids can easily be seen in the gaps between stars that may have to be an option.

[no links, no links ... promise, I'll do better in future]
posted by thatwhichfalls at 1:14 AM on December 14, 2001

When I first read that I thought it was about Europe.

Someone ripped me off!

posted by mattpfeff at 9:47 PM on December 17, 2001

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