Saturday, 1 June 2013

Water billion years old: discovering that changes what we knew about life forms

Water was collected from a depth of 2.4 km in mine Timmins, Ontario.
"When formed rock in question, the part of Canada was, in fact, the bottom of the ocean. When students enter the mine with them say: "Imagine you go to the bottom of the ocean 2.6 billion years ago, '" said Barbara Sherwood Lollar, University of Toronto.
After analysis, the scientists concluded that the water here is rich in dissolved gases such as hydrogen and methane that could provide energy to microbes, accommodates those found around hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. In addition, water may contain other rare gases such as helium, neon, argon and xenon, which have been created by the interaction of the radiation of the surrounding rock. Measuring concentrations of these noble gases isotopes, researchers were able to estimate that the water was isolated and the period from which it dates.
Depending on the analyzed gas, water age ranged between 1.1 billion years ago and 2.6 billion years.
Furthermore, the research, scientists have concluded that it is possible for water to remain isolated in the Earth's crust billions of years. For this reason, scientists tested water from the mine to find evidence to prove that there are microbes living in this environment. If it turns out this discovery could be similar to previously discovered microbes in water "youngest" of a mine in South Africa. Microbes can survive here without sunlight, living only on chemicals created from interactions between water and rock.
These microbial communities are rare and fascinates scientists because often they are not interconnected. "It may be that each of them have different age and history. For us it will be fascinating to microbiological analysis of each of them. We will learn about the evolution and colonization of the surface water, "said Sherwood Lollar.
Furthermore, Timmins mine water might help experts understand how the Earth's surface is inhabited by life forms. The answer to this question would have implications for the discovery of life on other planets, such as Mars.
"If you have all microbial life on the Earth's crust, it would be possible for life to survive on other planets in favorable conditions," said Shirey.
This creates new questions about the existence of life under relatively warm rocks under the surface of Mars, where water could exist in liquid form.

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