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Proceedings Paper

Astrobiology of comets
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Paper Abstract

We review the current state of knowledge concerning microbial extremophiles and comets and the potential significance of comets to Astrobiology. We model the thermal history of a cometary body, regarded as an assemblage of boulders, dust, ices and organics, as it approaches a perihelion distance of ~ 1AU. The transfer of incident energy from sunlight into the interior leads to the melting of near surface ices, some under stable porous crust, providing possible habitats for a wide range of microorganisms. We provide data concerning new evidence for indigenous microfossils in CI meteorites, which may be the remains of extinct cometary cores. We discuss the dominant microbial communities of polar sea-ice, Antarctic ice sheet, and cryoconite environments as possible analogs for microbial ecosystems that may grow in sub-crustal pools or in ice/water films in comets.

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 November 2004
PDF: 14 pages
Proc. SPIE 5555, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology VIII, (1 November 2004); doi: 10.1117/12.566496
Show Author Affiliations
Richard B. Hoover, NASA Marshall Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
National Space Science and Technology Ctr. (United States)
Elena V. Pikuta, NASA Marshall Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
National Space Science and Technology Ctr. (United States)
Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe, Univ. of Wales Cardiff (United Kingdom)
Max K. Wallis, Univ. of Wales Cardiff (United Kingdom)
Robert B. Sheldon, NASA Marshall Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
National Space Science and Technology Ctr. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 5555:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology VIII
Richard B. Hoover; Gilbert V. Levin; Alexei Y. Rozanov, Editor(s)

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