The oldest water on Earth is present in much larger volumes than previously thought. This data was published by the journal Nature and the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. There is a reservoir of about 11 million cubic kilometers (2.5 million cubic miles) of water 2.4 km underneath the Earth’s crust that is estimated to be between 1 to 2.5 billion years old. Not only is the water older, deeper, and in greater volume than previously thought, there is evidence that hydrogen production in the continental crust is not negligible but equal to that produced in the oceanic crust. Hydrogen is a potential energy source for life. The hunt for life in the ancient oceans deep below the Earth’s crust is now intensifying, along with the hunt for life elsewhere.
Scientists are boring holes in mine sites in Canada as part of the Deep Carbon Observatory with the aim of transforming our understanding of carbon on Earth. The Deep Carbon Observatory project focuses on how carbon compounds (including hydrocarbons) are created, stored, and interact with Earth’s deep interior and may have provided the raw materials for early life. In other words, they are searching for life all over the planet.
At the same time, it was announced in December 2014 that the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) found microbes living 2,400m beneath the seabed off Japan. The team found that microbes thrived in the cores, despite having “no light, no oxygen, barely any water and very limited nutrients.”
Keep an eye on Bill Nye’s assessments of upcoming Mars and Europa missions. The Planetary Society recently held an event in July 2014 called “The Lure of Europa” which included NASA, JPL, and Capitol Hill.
Photo: Microbial mats around the Grand Prismatic Spring of Yellowstone National Park
Credit: Jim Peaco, National Park Service via Wikimedia Commons