Sunday, 21 July 2013

Blood Falls is an iron oxide-tainted plume of salt-water

Blood Falls is an iron oxide-tainted plume of salt-water that flows from Taylor Glacier in East Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys during the summer months. It was exposed in 1911 by Australian geologist, Griffith Taylor, who first explored the valley that bears his name. The Antarctica pioneers first attributed the red colour to red algae, but later it was proven to be due only to iron oxides, and is home to 17 types of microbes that have been living in complete isolation without oxygen for millions of years.  This rare place offers researchers a unique opportunity to study deep subsurface microbial life in thrilling conditions without the need to drill deep boreholes in the polar ice cap, with the associated contamination risk of a fragile and still-intact environment. Experts of the NASA Astrobiology Institute speculate that these worlds could contain subglacial liquid water environments favorable to hosting elementary forms of life which would be better protected at depth from ultraviolet and cosmic radiation than on the surface. 

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