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News Release 343 of 955

October 19, 2006 01:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2006-48

Mars May Be Cozy Place for Hardy Microbes

October 19, 2006: A class of especially hardy microbes that live in some of the harshest Earthly environments could flourish on cold Mars and other chilly planets, according to a research team of astronomers and microbiologists. In a two-year laboratory study, the researchers discovered that some cold-adapted microorganisms not only survived but reproduced at 30 degrees Fahrenheit, just below the freezing point of water. The microbes also developed a defense mechanism that protected them from cold temperatures. These close-up images, taken by an electron microscope, reveal the tiny one-cell organisms, called halophiles and methanogens, that were used in the study.

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Credit: Maryland Astrobiology Consortium, NASA, and STScI