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Communication

Towards Determining Biosignature Retention in Icy World Plumes

1
SETI Institute, Moffett Field, CA 94043, USA
2
NASA Ames Research Center, Space Science Division, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Retired.
Life 2020, 10(4), 40; https://doi.org/10.3390/life10040040
Received: 21 March 2020 / Revised: 11 April 2020 / Accepted: 14 April 2020 / Published: 16 April 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Astrobiology)
With the discovery of the persistent jets of water being ejected to space from Enceladus, an understanding of the effect of the space environment on potential organisms and biosignatures in them is necessary for planning life detection missions. We experimentally determine the survivability of microbial cells in liquid medium when ejected into vacuum. Epifluorescence microscopy, using a lipid stain, and SEM imaging were used to interrogate the cellular integrity of E. coli after ejected through a pressurized nozzle into a vacuum chamber. The experimental samples showed a 94% decrease in visible intact E. coli cells but showed a fluorescence residue in the shape of the sublimated droplets that indicated the presence of lipids. The differences in the experimental conditions versus those expected on Enceladus should not change the analog value because the process a sample would undergo when ejected into space was representative. E. coli was selected for testing although other cell types could vary physiologically which would affect their response to a vacuum environment. More testing is needed to determine the dynamic range in concentration of cells expected to survive the plume environment. However, these results suggest that lipids may be directly detectable evidence of life in icy world plumes. View Full-Text
Keywords: icy world; plume; life detection; microbes; lipids; Europa; Enceladus; astrobiology icy world; plume; life detection; microbes; lipids; Europa; Enceladus; astrobiology
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MDPI and ACS Style

Bywaters, K.; Stoker, C.R.; Batista Do Nascimento, N., Jr.; Lemke, L. Towards Determining Biosignature Retention in Icy World Plumes. Life 2020, 10, 40. https://doi.org/10.3390/life10040040

AMA Style

Bywaters K, Stoker CR, Batista Do Nascimento N Jr., Lemke L. Towards Determining Biosignature Retention in Icy World Plumes. Life. 2020; 10(4):40. https://doi.org/10.3390/life10040040

Chicago/Turabian Style

Bywaters, Kathryn, Carol R. Stoker, Nelio Batista Do Nascimento Jr., and Lawrence Lemke. 2020. "Towards Determining Biosignature Retention in Icy World Plumes" Life 10, no. 4: 40. https://doi.org/10.3390/life10040040

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