Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Biology: Part 1 - Exobiology - Search for Extraterrestrial Life

Dr Abe V Rotor

Life forms crowd the inside walls of Mudspring, a volcanic vent of Mt Makiling, Laguna.

How did life originate on Earth? What did the earliest primitive organisms look like? Were they based on RNA, DNA, or on something we would hardly recognize today? Is there life elsewhere in the Universe?

The branch of biology that deals with the search for extraterrestrial life and the effects of extraterrestrial surroundings on living organisms. Also called
astrobiology, space biology.

Evidence of life in Martian meteorites or future rock samples from the Red Planet may be easier to identify thanks to microbes living in hot springs at Yellowstone National Park.

Dozens of structures on Saturn's moon Titan that appear to be collapsed slush volcanoes have been revealed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The heat and chemicals associated with these possible volcanoes could provide a niche for life on the frigid moon.

Figuring out whether Titan is volcanically active is important because volcanoes could be a source of the methane found in relatively large amounts in the moon's atmosphere. The methane is constantly being broken down by sunlight, so it must be replenished somehow.

In a flyby of the moon on 22 July 2008, radar observations revealed dozens of rounded depressions that look like volcanic structures on Earth called calderas. These depressions form on Earth when the ground collapses after lava has drained out from under it in volcanic eruptions.

A Filipina, Dr Donna Lacap, PhD, is among the few exobiologists in the world. She is studying the extreme conditions of life that exist in the craters of volcanoes, including our own Taal and Mayon. Dr. Lacap is a graduate from St Paul University QC, then St Paul College, for her BS Biology, for which I had the chance to be her teacher in biological sciences. She pursued her graduate studies and post doctoral abroad, among them The University of Hong Kong. x x x

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