No matter how hard we think life is, it will continue to exceed expectations,media New Atlas reported. Now a new study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has found that E. coli and yeast can survive in an atmosphere made up of 100% hydrogen, which could have a fascinating effect on life on other planets.
In the search for extraterrestrial life, scientists are focused on the planets that most resemble Earth. However, exoplanets, whose atmosphere is mainly made up of hydrogen, have traditionally been considered uninhabitable, but there is not much research to check whether this is the case. So the MIT team analyzed this.
The researchers exposed E. coli and yeast cultures to 100% hydrogen, and to their surprise, the microbes performed well. They did slow down, but that didn’t stop them. For E. coli, the reproduction rate has dropped by about half, while yeast is slowed by about 2.5 orders of magnitude. According to the team, this is most likely due to a lack of oxygen.
The researchers believe the discovery means that standards for what is a livable planet may need to be revised. Hydrogen-heavy super-Earths, for example, may be a good place to start, and convenient, and they may be easier to detect than other types of planets. This is because the hydrogen atmosphere will expand farther than other types of planets.
Even better, the team says, we might have been able to figure out if any of these planets were home to extraterrestrial life. E. coli and other bacteria are known to produce gases such as ammonia, dimethyl sulphides, nitrous oxide and methane. The detection of these gases in the hydrogen-based atmosphere may indicate the existence of life there.
The study was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.