Living 60,000 Year Old Microorganism Found Trapped Inside Crystals

Saturday, February 25, 2017 - 19:16

NASA scientists have discovered living microorganisms which have been trapped and living inside crystals for up to 60,000 years in a mine in Mexico.

The director of NASA's Astrobiology Institute, Penelope Boston, and her team have spent years exploring Mexico's Naica Mine in Chihuahua looking for extremophiles, which contain caves as large as cathedrals, the Telegraph reports.

The cave system is located above a large pocket of volcanic magma and is geothermally-heated to temperatures of up to 60°C, which has led to astrobiologists dubbing it 'hell'. Astrobiologists also worry about the risk that Earth organisms could contaminate other planets in the course of missions to places like Mars, which has already been visited by several U.S. robots.

According to the Daily Star, the research groups have been discovered 100 different bugs, which were mostly bacteria, were found inside a crystal. Scientist presumed that they had been trapped for between 10,000 and 60,000 years. 90 percent had never been seen before.

NASA has plans to bring back rock and ice samples from Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter, which is one of the best targets in the solar system for life because it has a salty ocean beneath its crust.

Dr. John Rummel, from the Seti Institute in Mountain View, California, said it was "pretty easy" for bugs to survive space journeys as long as they are shielded from the sun's ultraviolet radiation.

"If we bring samples back from either Europa or Mars, we will contain them until hazard testing demonstrates that there is no danger and no life, or continue the containment indefinitely while we study the material. It is assumed that such life would be hardy - to survive the trip to Earth; not easy - and precautions taken would provide a very high degree of containment.”


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