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Seeking Signs of Life at the Glacier's Edge
Color image of men drilling in ice on a glacier.
Ice augering at a glacier, taking measurements in Greenland, and collecting a sediment core. Credits: Seth Young, Lisa Pratt DATE: May 17, 2012

Microbes living at the edges of Arctic ice sheets could help researchers pinpoint evidence for similar microorganisms that could have evolved on Mars, the Jovian moon Europa, or Saturn's moon Enceladus. With support from the NASA ASTEP program, a team of scientists recently investigated the western edge of the Greenland ice sheet in order to study the release of methane as the ice sheet recedes. Careful isotopic analysis will help them determine if the methane comes directly or indirectly from methanogenic microbes.

In 2011, the researchers used an infrared laser to look for methane at multiple sites across a valley that extends for tens of miles near the margin of the Greenland ice sheet. In the coming summer, the researchers intend to look for potential subsurface gaseous signs of life with an innovative drill they have developed.


Last Updated: 29 May 2012

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Last Updated: 29 May 2012