With the announcement this week of potentially 7 habitable planets orbiting a single star, the search for extra-terrestrial life is back in the headlines. Although the potential of running into little green or grey men is arguable, most scientists recognise that if life should exist anywhere then it will most likely be as microbial form.
Scientists currently study extreme environments on Earth to gain a potential understanding of how microbial life may exist extra-terrestrially. Scientific equipment that can study microbes in extreme environments are currently deployed by scientists around the world for such a purpose.
For example, the Unisense DeepSea Lander can measure microbial activity, with sensors with a 10μm diameter measurement tip, to ocean depths of 4000m. The Unisense Mini-Profiler MP4 System and Field Multimeter are deployed in extreme environments in Antarctica. The deep sea dissolved methane (CH4) sensors are also deployed at extreme ocean depths to gain a greater understanding of biogeochemical cycles which may also occur on e.
A recent article published in The Conversation discusses why we can gain a better understanding of potential life on extra-terrestrial bodies, such as Jupiter’s moon Europa, by studying microbes here on Earth.