Tags: danakil | toxic | hot spring | ethiopia

Danakil Toxic Hot Spring in Ethiopia Explored for First Time

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By    |   Monday, 02 May 2016 08:22 AM

The toxic hot springs in Ethiopia's Danakil Depression are some of the most inhospitable places on Earth, but last month scientists began researching the area for the first time.

According to Science Alert, Felipe Gomez Gomez, from the Centre for Astrobiology in Spain, led a field exposition to the area on April 5. The group measured temperatures, humidity, as well as pH and oxygen levels at several sites.

"There are very few scientific publications on the site and no biological descriptions, so we are genuinely exploring new ground from a scientific point of view," Gomez Gomez said in a statement from Europlanet's outreach website.

"It is an amazing but hostile place – the temperatures were 42 degrees Celsius [107 degrees Fahrenheit] during the day and 30 degrees [86 degrees Fahrenheit] at night, and the chlorine vapor burned our airways. Any microorganisms living here will be extremophilic microbes of a major interest to astrobiologists," he added.

Gizmodo.com wrote that the depression's hydrothermal system stretches from Dallol Volcano to Lake Assal in Ethiopia, helping make it one of the most exotic places on Earth.

"Rain and seawater, heated by underground magma, bubble to the surface at near-boiling temperatures," Gizmodo.com stated. "It's laced with an elixir of salts that form lumpy terrain reminiscent of a coral reef steeped in radioactive waste. Chlorine and sulfur-rich vapors produce an acrid fog that smells like farts and can sear the lining off human lungs.

"It is a truly alien place — which is why it’s so odd that the Danakil Depression has escaped scientific study until now," Gizmodo.com continued.

According to Europlanet.com, the Danakil expedition hoped to determine the area's regional geology, survey the area for different metabolic environments where bacteria could have become isolated, and to extract DNA from any bacteria found to have developed a metabolic model for the hostile system.

"After mineral and geochemical characterization, we will know what kind of materials and bacteria are present and be able to identify the most interesting sites for astrobiology purposes," Gomez Gomez said in the Europlanet.com statement. "We are now starting the analysis of our samples and are planning a follow-up trip in a few months' time."

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The toxic hot springs in Ethiopia's Danakil Depression are some of the most inhospitable places on Earth, but last month scientists began researching the area for the first time.
danakil, toxic, hot spring, ethiopia
363
2016-22-02
Monday, 02 May 2016 08:22 AM
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