Flammable ice’ discovery could offer new clue to potential alien life, study claims

Scientists studying what’s known as “flammable ice” in the Sea of Japan recently discovered the existence of life with microscopic bubbles.

The microhabitats are grown by microbes within tiny bubbles of oil and water found in sheets of frozen gas and ice, according to researchers, who used analytical techniques to show that oil was being degraded in the microenvironments within the methane hydrate (also called “flammable ice”).

“In combination with the other evidence collected by my colleagues, my results showed that even under near-freezing temperatures, at extremely high pressures, with only heavy oil and saltwater for food-sources, life was flourishing and leaving its mark,” Stephen Bowden, from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Geosciences, said in a statement.



The scientists’ findings were published on Wednesday in the journal Scientific Reports.

“It certainly gives a positive spin to cold dark places, and opens up a tantalizing clue as to the existence of life on other planets,” Bowden explained. “Providing they have ice and a little heat, all those frigid cold planets at the edge of every planetary system could host tiny microhabitats with microbes building their own ‘death stars’ and making their own tiny little atmospheres and ecosystems, just as we discovered here.”

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