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Date: May 15, 2020

INRES images in Nature Astronomy Water means life - but as a rule, life requires liquid water. Water vapour can contribute to this when it condenses.

Nature Astronomy Pictures

The condensation of water vapor is promoted by salts; as atmospheric aerosols they contribute to cloud formation, while on leaf surfaces they deliquesce and form thin water films. The processes involved are studied at INRES with a special electron microscope. In an earlier publication by Jürgen Burkhardt with microbiologists from the University of Belfast and NASA (Stevenson et al., 2015), the importance of the phenomenon for the development and survival of life under extraterrestrial conditions was discussed. Some of those INRES images from the earlier publication are now presented again in a recent Nature Astronomy paper (Hallsworth, 2020) - this time in the context of possible microbial contamination of the Martian surface.

Hallsworth, J.E. (2020) Salt deliquescence can support extraterrestrial life. Nature Astronomy, Doi: 10.1038/s41550-020-1081-8

Stevenson, A., Burkhardt, J., Cockell, C.S., Cray, J.A., Dijksterhuis, J., Fox-Powell, M., Kee, T.P., Kminek, G., McGenity, T.J., Timmis, K.N., Timson, D.J., Voytek, M.A., Westall, F., Yakimov, M.M., Hallsworth, J.E. (2015) Multiplication of microbes below 0.690 water activity: implications for terrestrial and extraterrestrial life. Environmental Microbiology, 17(2), 257-277.


PD Dr. Jürgen Burkhardt
Plant Nutrition Group
University of Bonn
Tel. +49-(0)228/732186
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