The Arctic

“Despite having extremely cold temperatures in common, the Arctic and Antarctic are very different. Some areas are desert; some are simultaneously desert and wetland; others are pure ice cap. These cold environments are also the best models that we have for sites elsewhere in the Solar System that might harbor life. These “analogue sites” can be used to test instruments and techniques for life discovery before these instruments are sent to space. Most climate models of Mars suggest that the Red Planet was once much warmer and wetter than it is now, but even this “warm, wet Mars” was cold and dry compared to most sites on Earth. More recently, scientists have become intrigued by the possibility of microbial life on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. These sites have abundant liquid water under thick ice sheets and prevailing cold temperatures. Because most of the Solar System is cold, Earth’s analog sites are found in polar regions such as the High Arctic and the Antarctic.”