Extraterrestrial life is now estimated to be more prone to exist after studies have shown that microorganisms survive and thrive on alien meteorite matter.
Researchers have found that a single-cell organism, a progeny of some of the earliest life forms on Earth, is able to thrive in a meteorite. The monumental experiment is expected to provide a method of looking for signs of past alien life on other worlds.
Dr. Tetyana Milojevic from the University of Vienna and lead author of the study said that this process was extremely mysterious and exciting – how the chemical energy of a rock piece can be shifted into the biochemical energy of a living organism.
“To find an answer to understand this process, I think it’s a great moment,” she said.
Extracting Minerals With Microorganisms
The unusual species Metallosphaera sedula is able to thrive on a meteorite and can add this to its list of peculiar achievements. First collected from a volcanic area in Italy in 1989, the organism is believed to be an extremophile due to the fact it prefers to live in environments completely uninhabitable to all other types of entities.
Such organisms are incredibly helpful for discovering the early periods of Earth, with its difficult unlivable conditions, as well as the probabilities for life in the Universe.
When Dr. Milojevic took the decision to grow the microbe on a meteorite, she wanted to track the way the species would react. She was extremely surprised to find out that the microorganisms thrived on the space rock, growing and integrating nutrients on the meteorite.
Having the possibility to measure these chemical prints after an entity has died could be incredibly helpful in the search for alien life, Dr. Milojevic said. However, there is a massive gap between detecting these fingerprints and labeling them to separate species.
According to Dr. Milojevic, these organisms could also be great at biomining, which implies extracting minerals from cosmic objects.
She said: “We should try to understand where we are coming from and where we are going to, and archaea might be very useful in this way.”