National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
Science & Technology
Thermophiles Lurking in your Basement
Color image of woman standing next to hot spring.
In the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, a team of researchers has discovered a novel bacterium that transforms light into chemical energy. Image Credit: David Strong, Penn State

Ever wondered what exotic life forms may be lurking in the dark, hidden corners of your home? Scientists wonder too. Studies have shown that our modern plumbing systems provide sanctuary to a menagerie of microbes. A new pilot project plans to elicit the help of homeowners to catalogue the life growing in their water heaters. The research may give clues to how microbes evolve in the wild.

Forty years ago, scientists discovered certain heat-loving microbes, or thermophiles, living in domestic water heaters. These same bugs are found in hot springs, like those in Yellowstone and Iceland.

"We are asking people to sample the hot spring in their own basement," says Christopher House from Penn State University.

House and his colleagues will be doing follow-up testing on these samples to get a sense of the biodiversity in the water heater environment. With financial support from the NASA Astrobiology Institute, they hope to collect a wide geographic sampling from across the country.

"Are the thermophiles in New York the same as in Alaska or Hawaii?" House wonders.

Read the Full Story

Last Updated: 22 July 2011

Science Features
Astronomy Features
Technology Assessment Reports
Sungrazing Comets


Best of NASA Science
NASA Science Highlights
Technology Features
Lectures & Discussions

Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writers: Courtney O'Connor and Bill Dunford
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 22 Jul 2011