Friday, February 10, 2012

Lake Vostok Mystery: The only giant super-clean water system on the planet

After decades of drilling, Russian scientists have pierced through 4 kilometres of Antarctic ice to a unique sub-glacial lake, Vostok, that has been sealed there for the past 20 million years, a scientific source said on Monday.

Last year, the expedition stopped 10 to 50 metres short of the lake after the weather closed in truck forcing the scientists to abandon their research.

Academics say they have found “the only giant super-clean water system on the planet”. They forecast the extraordinary 5,400 cubic kilometres of pristine water will be “twice cleaner than double-distilled water”, and any life will have developed in total isolation.

Lake Vostok could also offer an idea of what kind of conditions exist for life in similar extreme conditions on Mars and Jupiter’s moon, Europa, according to RedOrbit scientific news portal.

Geothermal heat under the ice keeps the lake liquid, and its conditions are often described as “alien” because they are thought to be akin to the subterranean lakes on Jupiter's moon Europa.

“The discovery of microorganisms in Lake Vostok may mean that, perhaps, the first meeting with extraterrestrial life could happen on Europa,” said Dr Vladimir Kotlyakov, Director of the Geography Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Read More