2015 Annual Science Report
SETI Institute Reporting | JAN 2015 – DEC 2015
Environmental and Biological Signatures in Yellowstone National Park Silica Precipitating Hot Springs
Radiation from the Sun potentially affects solids, liquids, and gases found on the surfaces of planets. Radiation exposure could change the chemical and mineralogical make-up of the surface materials. Sample-return missions aim to collect samples, cache them for a period of time, and then return them to Earth for additional analysis. We have performed field experiments to document environmental radiation levels and exposures and their impact on recently formed materials and associated organic matter.
Investigators Hinman and Cady have collected samples from acidic iron-silicon precipitating and acidic silica precipitating hot springs in Yellowstone National Park. These samples represent silica-rich Martian environments. The composition and micro-textures of the solids document changes in environmental conditions over the course of deposition. Fig 1 shows evidence of rapid cementation of bacillus(?) onto the surface of silica deposited in an acidic silica precipitating hot spring. Such deposits appear to rapidly entomb microorganisms, a hypothesis that will be tested in the future.
PROJECT INVESTIGATORS:Nancy Hinman
PROJECT MEMBERS:Sherry Cady
RELATED OBJECTIVES:Objective 1.1
Formation and evolution of habitable planets.
Effects of environmental changes on microbial ecosystems
Biosignatures to be sought in Solar System materials
Biosignatures to be sought in nearby planetary systems