If a stratostatus finds the main microorganisms in the stratosphere and mesosphere, this will greatly affect the hunt of extraterrestrial life in the atmosphere of other worlds.
Life on Earth appears in unexpected places. So, it was found in high-temperature ventilation holes at a depth and high in the air. But we are still looking for information to learn as much as possible about these “extremophiles”. Now the study is trying to figure out how well life is developing in these places. And what kind of microbes can be found in other worlds?
In March, a group of students at the University of Houston will rise to a great height above Alaska to track the presence of microbes in the upper atmosphere 18-50 km (11-31 miles) from the surface. To do this, use a tool that resembles a laundry basket with an open hole. Then the balloon will drop, and the researchers will get their material.
Jamie Lehnen (one of the students) says that this system is less polluted than pumps and other complex mechanisms that serve the Earth. But the group uses it for the first time, because it is not sure how it will function. However, they want to find out how microbes at such heights react to stress.
“They are not metabolically active,” she says. “It is interesting for me to see how they behave on Earth.”
The earliest experiments with high-altitude microorganisms were conducted by Charles Darwin. But he did not use air transport. He took African dust on his ship while crossing the Atlantic Ocean, while Louis Pasteur was taking measurements at the top of the alpine glaciers. Both found microorganisms.
Researchers typically search for germs using high-altitude balloons. But airplanes will do
At least, we can say that microbes in the upper atmosphere have been in existence since the 1930s. In one of the earliest flights participated Charles Lindberg, known for single piloting the Atlantic Ocean. Periodically, he took with him a girlfriend, with whom they took samples from the atmosphere. They found spores of fungi and pollen.
Planes are used now, but balloons and rockets make it possible to reach the stratosphere and mesosphere. According to NASA microbial researcher David Smith, some of the pioneering work on this topic was done in the 1970s in Europe and the Soviet Union. “It was so exciting. But they didn’t do the follow-up work to check the collection, ”he said.
Scientists are trying to figure out how and how much microbes live above the earth's surface. In May and June, Smith and the NASA team use Gulfstream III jet aircraft to determine how climate change affects animals, plants, the environment, and infrastructure. In the spring, the huge airflow on the Pacific coast transports millions of tons of dust, mainly from Asia.
“We want to find out which microorganisms travel through the waters,” Smith said. - “Alaska will allow to test a hypothesis about the atmospheric bridge. Or, as we call it, the mainland sneeze. ”
The team uses a cascade probe for collecting air through the plates, which are deposited dust and microorganisms.
In ultraviolet light (as shown here by the Venus Express mission), Venus has mysterious dark bands that absorb ultraviolet radiation. Some researchers believe that this may be a sign of life in the upper atmosphere. Smith is skeptical, as it is very cold at such heights and the microorganisms dry out. But he says that they can remain there in a “dead” state. “No one yet knows how long they live in the stratosphere.”
“Practically in all land and sea surfaces there are microorganisms brought by wind from the earth’s layer,” writes Tina Santl-Temkiv, who studied microorganisms in the city. - “They can reach about one kilometer in height and hang there for about a week, being transported over long distances. In the end, they fall to the ground and dry up. ”
If the earth's atmosphere is a suitable place to live, then it will affect the study of Venus. Back in the 1960s, astronomer and popularizer of science, Karl Sagan, suggested that descendants of microorganisms that lived on its surface during its colder times could remain in the upper layers of the atmosphere of Venus.
The modern atmosphere of the planet is able to weld and crush an unprotected ship at an altitude of 50 km (31 miles). “Venus and Earth were like 3 billion years,” said NASA astrobiologist and synthetic biologist Lynn Rothschild. She believes that the planet included liquid oceans, a similar atmosphere and, most likely, the same minerals and organic compounds. ”
But, if life would return to Venus, then it would not be sweet to her. The sun has evaporated all the water, and the steam that has risen has created a terrible greenhouse shell that has inflamed the planet. Life is hardy, but we don’t know if she has the strength to survive high above the surface of the planet.