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Scientists have found a microorganism that can survive in space, eating meteorites



To understand how life can be transported through space naturally, an international team of scientists launched a search among terrestrial chemolithotrophs. This term refers to microorganisms that can feed on minerals, extracting energy from them. For example, Leptospirillum ferrooxidans and Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans, which can oxidize meteorite iron.

But scientists were looking for a special sample, active thermoacidophil, able to survive at high temperatures and low pH to survive a journey through space and passage through the atmosphere of planets. The search led to a microbe called Metallosphaera sedula, whose metabolism is based on the processing of metals. As food, he was given samples of the NWA 1172 meteorite - a 120-kilogram stone from space found in 2000.

Microbes were landed on fragments of this multimetal meteorite, which had previously been sterilized for the purity of the experiment. In parallel, another group of microbes was fed with crushed copper-iron-sulfur mineral chalcopyrite. Scientists studied metal ions formed as a result of the activity of microbes in order to understand how suitable such "food" is.

In all experiments, the growth of the microbial population on the meteorite significantly exceeded the indices of the group that fed on terrestrial minerals. M. Sedula felt fine and actively penetrated deep into the meteorite's porous structure. And this is a direct indication that microbes can survive while traveling through space, because they have the main thing - food.

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