For the first time, scientists can take samples from deep beneath the ice of the famous “bleeding glacier,” hoping to help in the search for alien life.
The bleeding glacier, also known as “blood falls,” is on the tongue of Taylor Glacier in East Antarctica. The characteristic blood flow is actually from iron contained in ultra-salty seawater that is about two million years old.
According to Gizmodo, the bleeding glacier was discovered in 1911, but its real value to science wasn’t understood until much later in 2004, when a team of scientists found microbial life at the foot of the falls.
That’s where researching alien life comes in.
The environment contained in the bleeding glacier is unlike any other place on Earth. It’s dark, frozen, oxygen-less, and extremely salty. It’s much like certain locations in our own solar system, like the frozen moon of Enceladus orbiting Saturn.
As previously reported by Inquisitr, it’s also dark, salty and frozen (for the most part). Jupiter’s moon Europa has a similar environment and scientists already believe those two celestial bodies have the potential for alien life. But how would life on those moons survive?
To answer that question, scientists working on the bleeding glacier hope to study the microbial life found within. If they understand how life can survive in the oxidized environment, they can better understand how alien microbial life could survive elsewhere in the solar system. Studying these “extremophiles” — lifeforms living in extreme environments — could ultimately help future space missions search for alien life.
For the researchers, there’s just one problem: in 2004, when they took samples, they were immediately exposed to light and oxygen, which contaminated the sample.
Now, scientists have what’s called the EnEx-IceMole.
According to the Daily Mail, the IceMole is a rectangular metal box with a copper head and ice screw that can melt through the ice.
German physicist Dirk Heinen explained the device’s abilities to the Antarctica Sun.
“It can drive curved trajectories through bulk ice. It can go sideways, up and down. If you want to reach any point, you can go there.”
Thanks to the probe, researchers can finally take a sample from deep within the glacier’s interior (the liquid before it turns red from oxidization).
Scientists are now analyzing the samples from the bleeding glacier. In the end, they might discover that alien life on the distant moons of Saturn and Jupiter isn’t that much different than life here on Earth, at least like in one of the strangest locations on Earth.
[Image Credit: Peter Rejcek/Wikimedia Commons]