Bacteria taken from the scrumptiously named fishing village of Beer on Britain's south coast have proven themselves some of the hardiest organisms on Earth -- or in space for that matter. Bacteria found in rocks taken from the cliffs at Beer have survived a grueling year-and-a-half exposure to space conditions on the exterior of the ISS and returned home alive, becoming the longest-lived photosynthesizing microbes to survive in space.
Some big news dropped quietly during a recent TED talk in the UK: Kepler co-investigator Dimitar Sasselov jumped the gun -- and likely angered a few colleagues -- with one of his presentation slides, letting the audience (and the world) know that Kepler has identified at least 140 "candidate" planets in the Milky Way that are "like Earth." That is, they are small, rocky exoplanets with at least an outside chance of harboring life.
Scientists unveiled fossils from West Africa Thursday that turn paleontology on its head -- they push the origin of multicellular life back by 1.5 billion years.
The fossils are 2.1 billion years old, the scientists say, fully three times older than previous estimates of when complex life evolved. The fossils were reported in the British journal Nature.
A stinking, poisonous lake filled with carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons might not seem like the kind of place for living things to thrive, but researchers have discovered life in Trinidad's Pitch Lake, a hot asphalt lake teeming with all kinds of noxious gases and containing very little water. But the discovery isn't just of interest to biologists; Pitch Lake is thought to be the closest thing we have on Earth to the hydrocarbon lakes on Saturn's Titan moon.
In the 236 years since oxygen was identified as a life-giving necessity, no scientist anywhere has discovered a multicellular animal capable of living without the stuff. Until now. Researchers from the Polytechnic University of Marche in Ancona, Italy*, have discovered three new species that live their entire life in an anoxic pit beneath the Mediterranean Sea.
The world is ending. Not right now, mind you, but we can rest assured that it will end. Whether from massive star explosions in nearby solar systems, a collision with another body in space or the death of our own sun, life on this planet -- all life -- at one point will cease to be. And according to Michael Mautner of Virginia Commonwealth University, we have a moral obligation to seed life throughout the universe before that happens.
Monoliths may not have transformed Jupiter into a star and made Europa a new Earth, but the late science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke might still be pleased, wherever he is, with NASA's prediction for 2010. Spaceflight Now reports that this year should prove whether fossilized life truly exists in three Martian meteorites, one way or the other.
NASA's SUV-sized Mars rover now has the ability to check for possible ingredients or signatures of life. The U.S. space agency recently approved a new instrument for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) that can closely study carbon-containing compounds, if any show up in the dozens of planned soil and rock samples.
Thanks to a surface covered in liquid water, Jupiter's moon Europa serves as the prime suspect for bodies in our solar system harboring extraterrestrial life. For the most part though, speculation has assumed the life on Europa would be microscopic, similar to the chemical and rock-eating microbes found atop undersea volcanic vents on Earth. However, a new study estimates the level of oxygen in Europa's seas may be high enough to support fish-sized life. Hello, alien sushi.
Nearly four billion years ago, the Earth was pummeled by asteroids -- some as large as the state of Kansas -- during an episode known as the "Late Heavy Bombardment." Now, scientists believe that bombardment phase may have jump-started early microbial life. The results also lend support to the possibility of extreme microbial life on other planets like Mars, and perhaps even on Earth-like planets in other solar systems that may have undergone similar bombardment phases.