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Looking Out for Life

Although Curiosity has not found evidence of life on Mars, NASA announced yesterday that its suite of dirt analyzers works perfectly. Meanwhile new discoveries on Earth and the planet Mercury continue to imply the possibility of extraterrestrial life. On ERV, Abbie Smith marvels at the extremophile bacteria that have been locked under an Antarctic ice sheet for the last 2800 years, “happily (but slowly!) generating proteins in their hypersaline, super cold, no oxygen, ton of iron environment!” And though Smith would love to work in Antarctica, she says it “might be more fun to go to Europa with a shovel.” On Starts With a Bang, Ethan Siegel explains the counterintuitive presence of water ice on Mercury, writing “any rocky planet with no atmosphere and a sufficiently small axial tilt should have permanently shadowed craters at its poles, which will contain ices and other frozen materials common to that Solar System.” Which gives life on Mercury, approximately, a snowball’s chance in hell.