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December 16 2012

Even Planets With Thin Atmospheres Could Host Life

SAN FRANCISCO — Scientists have grown bacteria in a very low-atmospheric-pressure environment, similar to the surface of Mars.

When searching for life in the universe, it makes sense to look for conditions roughly similar to our own planet. We have only one example of life, and it happens to exist on an Earth-sized planet with water and a thick atmosphere. Previous studies have shown that microbes were unable to grow when the atmospheric pressure was too low, but a new experiment seems to contradict this finding.

“Just because the planet doesn’t have a large atmosphere, we don’t have to dismiss it right away as non-habitable,” said Alexander Pavlov of NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center here at the American Geophysical Union conference on Dec. 3.

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