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Proceedings Paper

Microorganisms on comets, Europa, and the polar ice caps of Mars
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Paper Abstract

Microbial extremophiles live on Earth wherever there is liquid water and a source of energy. Observations by ground-based observatories, space missions, and satellites have provided strong evidence that water ice exists today on comets, Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede and in the snow, permafrost, glaciers and polar ice caps of Mars. Studies of the cryoconite pools and ice bubble systems of Antarctica suggest that solar heating of dark rocks entrained in ice can cause localized melting of ice providing ideal conditions for the growth of microbial communities with the creation of micro-environments where trapped metabolic gasses produce entrained isolated atmospheres as in the Antarctic ice-bubble systems. It is suggested that these considerations indicate that several groups of microorganisms should be capable of episodic growth within liquid water envelopes surrounding dark rocks in cometary ices and the permafrost and polar caps of Mars. We discuss some of the types of microorganisms we have encountered within the permafrost and snow of Siberia, the cryoconite pools of Alaska, and frozen deep within the Antarctic ice sheet above Lake Vostok.

Paper Details

Date Published: 10 February 2004
PDF: 11 pages
Proc. SPIE 5163, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology VII, (10 February 2004); doi: 10.1117/12.513432
Show Author Affiliations
Richard B. Hoover, NASA National Space Science and Technology Ctr. (United States)
Elena V. Pikuta, NASA National Space Science and Technology Ctr. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 5163:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology VII
Richard B. Hoover; Alexei Yu. Rozanov, Editor(s)

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