May 18, 2024

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Microbial life hiding on the lunar south pole

Microbial life hiding on the lunar south pole

The Shackleton crater is located at the moon’s south pole, where microbes that originated from Earth could reside. This visualization is color-coded and marked to show crater depth.
NASA/Ernie Wright

  • A NASA planetary scientist says conditions on the moon’s south pole may be ripe for microbial life.
  • Researchers have found that some microbes on Earth can withstand extreme conditions.
  • These microbes may have caught the lunar lander and are now living on the moon.

Compared to Earth, the Moon is a desolate place. Free of flowing water, faint clouds, and signs of life. Except, one NASA scientist believes there is more to the Moon than meets the eye.

Prabal SaxenaMicrobial life can exist in extreme environments like those on the moon, said a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

“There may be suitable habitats for such life in relatively sheltered areas on some airless body,” said Prabal Saxena. Space.com reported.

It is likely that these lunar microbes, if any, originated on Earth and rode a lunar lander.

Saxena Studies Where alien life could exist outside our solar system, but he’s recently been working with a team that has its sights closer to home – the moon’s south pole.

The moon’s south pole contains craters of ice and potential microbial life

The moon’s south pole has gotten a lot of attention in recent years because it’s where NASA hopes to land Artemis III astronauts in 2025. Agency identified 13 possible landing sites:

Displays 13 regions identified by NASA as potential targets for the next human landing on the Moon.
NASA

No human has ever set foot on the south pole of the moon. But we do know from NASA’s Moon Mineralology Mapper that it is Contains snow Inside the craters, which astronauts can drill into for rocket fuel.

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Some areas of these craters live in perpetual darkness, constantly in shadow. As a result, the sun’s harmful rays never reach these lunar pockets, and they may be a safe haven. severe microbes.

“Importantly, recent research on the survival of microbes exposed to conditions such as those found on parts of the lunar surface indicates a surprising resilience of many microorganisms to such conditions,” Saxena stated in the recent work, according to Leonard David on Inside Outer Space.

Map of “cold traps” within the shadowed lunar craters at the Moon’s south pole (left) and north pole (right). The blue dots show locations where water ice may be present at or near the surface.
NASA

For example, researchers found that a bacterium called Deinococcus radiodurans survived on the outside of the International Space Station for a year. Tardigrades have also survived outside the International Space Station, exposed to the harsh conditions of space.

“We are currently working to understand which specific organisms are best suited to survive in such areas,” Saxena told Space.com.

Even if microbes don’t currently exist on the moon, they almost certainly will if humans start roaming its surface. And if Saxena and his team are right, these microbes could not only survive, but potentially thrive, in these permanently encrusted craters, according to Space.com.