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Life on Earth can be explained by asteroid-eating bacteria

A new study suggests that asteroids can be a food source for living things, more specifically a microorganism called  Metallosphaera sedula , a metal-eating species.

M. sedula Picture: Tetyana Milojevic

Metallosphaera sedula  is a species of bacteria-like microbes, originally isolated from a volcanic field in Italy. The first part of the name can roughly be translated as a “metal mobilizing sphere,” while the word “sedulus” means busy. This describes the efficiency of these organisms in mobilizing metals, including those found in asteroids.

According to research led by University of Vienna astrobiologist Tetyana Milojevic, these microbes derive their energy from inorganic substances through oxidation, and can collect energy sources faster from extraterrestrial rocks than from simple ancient terrestrial minerals. Milojevic explains that the study was conducted to find “microbial fingerprints” left in meteorites. “This should be useful for tracking life-seeking biosignatures in other parts of the universe,” she concludes.

This kind of research, according to the astrobiologist, can provide her colleagues with “little tips” on what they can look for in their search for alien life. “If there was ever life on another planet, similar microbial fingerprints may still be preserved in the geological record,” she said.

The team examined how Metallosphaera sedula  interacts with NWA 1172, a rocky meteorite found in northwest Africa that contains about 30 different metals. Using various spectroscopy techniques and an electron microscope, the researchers documented the signatures left by the organism. Thus, they found that M. sedula  is able to consume extraterrestrial material much faster than it does with terrestrial minerals, resulting in healthier cells.

Inorganic Compounds of Meteorite NWA 1172 (Image: Tetyana Milojevic)

While terrestrial minerals provide only a few nutrients for the microorganism, “NWA 1172 iron is used as an energy source to meet M. sedula’s bioenergetic needs  as microbes breathe due to iron oxidation,” Milojevic explained. The wide range of metals in NWA 1172 can also be used for other metabolic processes, such as accelerating vital chemical reactions within cells. And because the meteorite is so porous, it can promote M. sedula’s improved growth rate.

That means iron meteorites could have brought more metal elements and phosphorus to Earth, making life’s evolution easier, according to Milojevic. In addition, research may also support the panspermia hypothesis, an idea that cannot yet be substantiated, but it is not ruled out either, as scientists have not yet completely unraveled the origin of life on our planet. And Milojevic is interested in exploring this possibility: To do so, her team plans to “test the survival of  M. sedula  under simulated and real environmental conditions from outer space,” the astrobiologist said. The plan, however, will have to find the funding needed to send the microorganisms into space.

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Planet Earth

Preschooler raised 200 thousand dollars to save animals in Australia

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Owen Collie is only 6 years old, he lives with his parents in Massachusetts, USA. While in kindergarten, he found out about Australia’s terrible fires causing millions of animals to die. The boy felt sorry for the koalas, kangaroos, dingo dogs and other animals of this continent, so sorry that he asked his mother how can these poor animals be helped? 

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But his mother did not know the answer, although, after thinking, she offered her son a very interesting project to save Australia’s nature. They began to sculpt clay koalas and send souvenirs to anyone who wants to financially help animals in Australia. To do this, it’s enough to buy a clay figure for $ 50, that is, to donate such an amount to a noble cause.

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The project went online and was successful, probably, first of all, thanks to the boy’s craving to help the poor animals. Now Owen masters one clay figure in 4 minutes, it takes about 20 minutes to roast it in a special furnace, and then these small souvenirs are sent by mail to everyone who has expressed a desire to participate in this amazing project.

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And there were a lot of people willing to give. In the first week only, the Collie family raised 200 thousand dollars to save the nature of Australia. And this project is ongoing, a project initiated by the most ordinary kid from the USA. Or maybe this kind boy is not quite ordinary, do you think?

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Planet Earth

New unknown viruses have appeared on a Tibet glacier

Unknown viruses from Earth’s ancient past have been found in the Tibetan glacier, which poses a risk if these viruses reach the atmosphere.

As the climate of our planet seems to be getting warmer, melting glaciers can lead to the appearance of previously unknown pathogens.

These agents remain inactive in the ice but do not die, scientists warn.

After examining a couple of ice cores extracted from an ancient glacier located in the Tibetan Plateu, a team of US scientists discovered about 33 viral populations.

And of those 33, 28 of them had never been seen before, according to Live Science.

The researchers warned that as glaciers around the world decrease, this trend could lead to the loss of such “microbial and viral archives” that offer a unique insight into the “climatic regimes” passed from Earth.

“However, in the worst case, this melting of ice could release pathogens into the environment,” they say.

The study of the viruses in question is complicated by the fact that the two ice cores, originally extracted in 1992 and 2015, can easily become contaminated with bacteria.

“This study establishes ultra-clean microbial and viral sampling procedures for glacier ice, which complements the previous decontamination methods on silica and expands, for the first time, clean procedures to viruses,” the scientists wrote.

“The application of these methods to glacier ice confirmed previous common microbiological findings for a new ice core climate record.”

“It provides a first window to viral genomes and their glacial ice ecology across two time horizons, and emphasizes their likely impact on abundant microbial groups.”

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Planet Earth

ESA launches space mission to measure Earth’s climate change

The European Space Agency (ESA) approved a new mission that aims to measure the climate changes that are happening on Earth. Its main objective will be to provide an accurate measure of the light reflected on Earth.

ESA launches space mission to measure Earth's climate change
Art: The TRUTHS satellite will work with other satellites to calibrate and validate observations. UKSA / NPL

Known as Traceable Radiometry Underpinning Terrestrial- and Helio-Studies (TRUTHS), the mission was approved by ESA after a meeting with scientists and engineers from its member states.

The scientific aspect of the mission will be addressed by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) of Great Britain, which plans to equip the TRUTHS satellite with an instrument known as a cryogenic radiometer. This device is used to accurately measure the intensity of a light source.

Using this instrument in conjunction with a hyperspectral camera, TRUTHS will measure how much light is being reflected on the Earth’s surface. This includes the planet’s oceans, deserts, snow fields and forests.

As the data that will be collected by TRUTHS will be the first of its kind, it will serve as a standard for Earth’s reflectivity. They can be used and compared with new data that will be collected in future missions 10 to 15 years from now.

According to the scientists, the information that will be collected by the TRUTHS satellite may help policy makers to approve plans and regulations aimed at environmental issues.

By having a clear idea of ​​the amount of light reflected on Earth, scientists will be able to monitor the planet’s climate fingerprint. Specifically, they will be able to measure the heat radiating from the planet. Future missions can use TRUTH data to check changes in Earth’s climate.

Professor Nigel Fox of the NPL said in a statement, according to BBC:

In doing so, we will be able to detect subtle changes much sooner than with our current observation system.

This will allow us to restrict and test climate forecasting models. Therefore, we will know earlier if the predicted temperatures that the models are giving us are consistent or not with the observations.

The TRUTHS mission does not yet have an exact launch date, but officials from ESA member states plan to deploy it sometime in 2026.

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