A new paper says that single-celled organisms like Escherichia coli and yeast are capable of growing and surviving in atmospheric conditions similar to the ones theorized to exist on rocky exoplanets.
Scientists would be thrilled to learn if there’s life elsewhere in the universe, and part of the answer to that question is finding how would an inhabited exoplanet look like to telescopes from Earth.
Do such planets have a similar atmosphere to Earth? How would the existence of life affect atmospherical conditions? That question is a lot more critical than you might believe. Take a look at what we did to our atmosphere over the past two hundred years, and you’ll know why.
If life can exist on planets whose atmospheres are rich in hydrogen, then we might need to re-think the criteria that define a life-supporting planet.
MIT professor and the study’s first author Sara Seager said that the new research should “open up” astronomers on what planets are potentially habitable.
“We will have so few planets to search for life around, even with our upcoming sophisticated telescopes, that we want to keep options open,” she added.
The team of MIT researchers analyzed the evolution of E.coli bacteria and brewer’s yeast colonies.
The microorganisms were incubated in four recipients with various gas concentrations: One contained regular air, one contained 100% hydrogen, one contained 100% helium, and the other one contained a mix of 20% carbon dioxide and 80% nitrogen.
The colonies were able to thrive in all four bottles, but they did so more than two times quicker in the regular air than in other gases, according to the paper, which was published in Nature Astronomy.
Some microorganisms are known to be able to survive without oxygen. Those are known as “anaerobic” organisms.