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Arctic Microbe Hunt Could Aid Search for Alien Life

Microbes living at the edges of Arctic ice sheets could help researchers pinpoint evidence for similar microorganisms that may have evolved on Mars, Jupiter's moon Europa or Saturn's moon Enceladus, researchers say.

Scientists are investigating the receding edge of ice sheets on Earth to study the release of methane there.

Methane is a colorless, odorless, flammable gas. On Earth, some methane is produced abiotically — not by life — through reactions between water and rock, as well as through the breakdown of hydrocarbons by geological processes.

On the other hand, some methane comes directly or indirectly from methanogenic microbes, as a byproduct of fermentation of acetate — a derivative of vinegar — into methane and carbon dioxide.
 
 

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