Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe free to our newsletters via your




















EXO WORLDS
Study shows how radioactive decay could support extraterrestrial life
by Staff Writers
San Antonio, TX (SPX) May 22, 2017


A University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) team modeled a natural water-cracking process called radiolysis. They applied the model to the icy bodies around our solar system to show how radiation emitted from rocky cores could break up water molecules and support hydrogen-eating microbes. Image Courtesy of Southwest Research Institute. Full size image available here

In the icy bodies around our solar system, radiation emitted from rocky cores could break up water molecules and support hydrogen-eating microbes. To address this cosmic possibility, a University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) team modeled a natural water-cracking process called radiolysis.

They then applied the model to several worlds with known or suspected interior oceans, including Saturn's moon Enceladus, Jupiter's moon Europa, Pluto and its moon Charon, as well as the dwarf planet Ceres.

"The physical and chemical processes that follow radiolysis release molecular hydrogen (H2), which is a molecule of astrobiological interest," said Alexis Bouquet, lead author of the study published in the May edition of Astrophysical Journal Letters. Radioactive isotopes of elements such as uranium, potassium, and thorium are found in a class of rocky meteorites known as chondrites.

The cores of the worlds studied by Bouquet and his co-authors are thought to have chondrite-like compositions. Ocean water permeating the porous rock of the core could be exposed to ionizing radiation and undergo radiolysis, producing molecular hydrogen and reactive oxygen compounds.

Bouquet, a student in the joint doctoral program between UTSA's Department of Physics and Astronomy and SwRI's Space Science and Engineering Division, explained that microbial communities sustained by H2 have been found in extreme environments on Earth.

These include a groundwater sample found nearly 2 miles deep in a South African gold mine and at hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. That raises interesting possibilities for the potential existence of analogous microbes at the water-rock interfaces of ocean worlds such as Enceladus or Europa.

"We know that these radioactive elements exist within icy bodies, but this is the first systematic look across the solar system to estimate radiolysis. The results suggest that there are many potential targets for exploration out there, and that's exciting," says co-author Dr. Danielle Wyrick, a principal scientist in SwRI's Space Science and Engineering Division.

One frequently suggested source of molecular hydrogen on ocean worlds is serpentinization. This chemical reaction between rock and water occurs, for example, in hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.

The key finding of the study is that radiolysis represents a potentially important additional source of molecular hydrogen. While hydrothermal activity can produce considerable quantities of hydrogen, in porous rocks often found under seafloors, radiolysis could produce copious amounts as well.

Radiolysis may also contribute to the potential habitability of ocean worlds in another way. In addition to molecular hydrogen, it produces oxygen compounds that can react with certain minerals in the core to create sulfates, a food source for some kinds of microorganisms.

"Radiolysis in an ocean world's outer core could be fundamental in supporting life. Because mixtures of water and rock are everywhere in the outer solar system, this insight increases the odds of abundant habitable real estate out there," Bouquet said.

Co-authors of the article, "Alternative Energy: Production of H2 by Radiolysis of Water in the Rocky Cores of Icy Bodies," are SwRI's Dr. Christopher R. Glein, Wyrick, and Dr. J. Hunter Waite, who also serves as a UTSA adjoint professor.

EXO WORLDS
New study sheds light on origins of life on Earth through molecular function
Urbana IL (SPX) May 19, 2017
In the primordial soup that was early Earth, life started small. Elements joined to form the simple carbon-based molecules that were the precursors of everything that was to come. But there is debate about the next step. One popular hypothesis suggests that ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules, which contain the genetic blueprints for proteins and can perform simple chemical reactions, kick-st ... read more

Related Links
Southwest Research Institute
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

EXO WORLDS
DARPA Picks Design for Next-Generation Spaceplane

SDL-Supported SmallSat Launched from International Space Station

'Victory' for US astronauts on critical spacewalk to replace power box

NASA Acting Administrator Statement on Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposal

EXO WORLDS
Neptune: Neutralizer-free plasma propulsion

Rocket Lab scrubs test launch attempt from Launch Complex 1

Russia to create new Super-Heavy Class rocket after 2025

Spaceflight buys Electron Rocket from Rocket Lab

EXO WORLDS
Schiaparelli landing investigation completed

HI-SEAS Mission V Mars simulation marks midway point

Deciphering the fluid floorplan of a planet

How hard did it rain on Mars

EXO WORLDS
California Woman Charged for Trying to Hand Over Sensitive Space Tech to China

A cabin on the moon? China hones the lunar lifestyle

China tests 'Lunar Palace' as it eyes moon mission

China to conduct several manned space flights around 2020

EXO WORLDS
AsiaSat 9 ready for shipment

SES Networks offers new hybrid resiliency service

Allied Minds' portfolio company BridgeSat raises $6 million in Series A financing

AIA report outlines policies needed to boost the US Space Industry competitiveness

EXO WORLDS
Arralis launches plug and play Ka band chipset

Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect

HPC4MfG paper manufacturing project yields first results

Unfolding the folding mechanism of ladybug wings

EXO WORLDS
Scientists propose synestia, a new type of planetary object

NASA Scientist Parlays Experience to Build Ocean Worlds Instrument

Kepler Telescope Spies Details of Trappist-1's Outermost Planet

Astronomers Confirm Orbital Details of TRAPPIST-1h

EXO WORLDS
Hubble spots moon around third largest dwarf planet

NASA asks science community for Europa Lander Instruments ideas

Waves of lava seen in Io's largest volcanic crater

Not So Great Anymore: Jupiter's Red Spot Shrinks to Smallest Size Ever




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement