(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
Deep underneath the Antarctic ice there sits a lake that hasn't seen the light of day for 15-million years. Earlier this year, Russian scientists completed drilling down 2.4 miles to Lake Vostok and were able to collect some samples to look for prehistoric microbes. Sadly, however, it seems that they have come up empty handed - but the team is still confident they will find something from future samples.
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Sergey Bulat of Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute reported the findings at the 12th European Workshop on Astrobiology (ENEA 2012), in Stockholm, Sweden, at the AlbaNova University Center.
The samples taken only represent the very top layer of the lake. When the drilling finally hit the lake, pressure caused the water to shoot up close to 130 feet from the surface. It's from this area that the current samples were taken.
Bulat and his team, however, still have a couple more areas they want to explore for microbes. They're hoping to study the ice in the borehole where the drill bit originally stopped, and from sediment from the bottom of the lake. The next round of sampling should kick off in 2013.
One reason behind the interest in finding out whether Lake Vostok harbors any life is because the lake is a great stand-in for frozen environments that exist outside of Earth, such as Jupiter's moon Europa. The findings here on Earth could give hints as to where and how life can exist in extraterrestrial bodies.
"Let's see what comes out next round," Gerda Horneck of the German Aerospace Center told Nature.