Sunday, 11 September 2016
Scientists in search for hottest life forms
SCIENTISTS will start drilling off Japan this month to seek the hottest place where life can survive in an uncharted realm deep below the seabed.
Drilling under the Nankai Trough in the Pacific Ocean will be part of a project by 900 experts to map carbon underground, hoping for clues to everything from the origin of life on Earth to the formation of oil and gas.
Previously, microbes have been found living at a torrid 121 degrees Celsius around a volcanic vent on the seabed in the Pacific Ocean off the United States.
Scientists will now drill into rocks where temperatures reach 130 degrees in a two-month trip off southern Japan starting on Monday, said Kai-Uwe Hinrichs, of the University of Bremen in Germany who led the scientific proposal for the mission.
He reckoned life was likely to exist at temperatures around a maximum 85 to 90 degrees beneath the surface. He said there was probably less food in such rocks, heated by the molten core of the Earth, than near volcanoes on the seabed.
“But we’ve been surprised in these systems before. I wouldn’t bet any money on it,” he told reporters.
Water in the Nankai Trough is 4.7 kilometers deep and the scientists will drill another 1.2km into the Earth. Researchers reckon it is easier to prevent contamination of samples on a drilling ship than on land.
Scientists say they are discovering vast amounts of carbon-based life in the little understood subterranean zone.read more
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