NASA Interested in Arctic Glacier Bacteria

Posted on June 28, 2006

Digital Journal reports that an expedition is headed to the high Arctic to follow-up on Benoit Beauchamp's discovery of an unusual yellow stain on an arctic glacier that was found to contain new forms of bacteria and vaterite, a very rare mineral. NASA and the Canadian Space Agency are also interested because of the possibility of extraterrestrail life and because it could provide information that would help with a trip to Europa.
Beauchamp discovered the spring in the mid-1990s when he noticed a yellow stain on the snow while flying above the Borup Fiord Pass in a helicopter. He returned to the area and noticed the strong smell of rotten eggs that indicated the presence of sulphur. Beauchamp's colleague, Dr. Steve Grasby, came back in 1999 and 2001 to collect samples of water and mineral deposits.

Early testing showed the glacier spring contains new forms of bacteria and an extremely rare mineral known as vaterite. The bacteria have survived in one of the coldest and harshest environments on Earth and scientists say nothing like it has ever been found before.

"That yellowish stain has attracted the attention of NASA and the Canadian Space Agency because it has a link to extraterrestrial life," Beauchamp, the executive director of the Arctic Institute of North America, told "What we're finding more and more is there is life within the ice and beneath the ice."

The Arctic Institute of North America is a non-profit research institute of the University of Calgary. Their team is eager to begin exploring the arctic sulphur deposit because signs of life in Canada's arctic suggest it's also possible life could exist on Jupiter's second moon Europa. Scientists say the glacial spring in the arctic will provide critical information for understanding and uncovering what lies beneath the icy surface of Jupiter's second moon, Europa.
You can read more about the Arctic Institute of North America on their website.
More from Science Space & Robots