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Monday, March 7, 2011

The lost carbon...

An international team of scientists begins a ten year survey of the 'most important element'

Deep beneath the surface of the Earth, a vast and unseen community of strange, microscopic lifeforms quietly subsists on the heat rising from our planet's interior.

Life has already been found in the deepest layer of Earth's crust, nearly one mile down, but scientists expect to find life thriving even deeper. Studying mysteries like this one is a task for the Deep Carbon Observatory, a new project that will search out not just life but everything carbon-related that lies beneath our feet.

Now in the first year of its planned decade-long existence, the Deep Carbon Observatory aims to reshape our fundamental understanding of carbon's role in the biology, chemistry, and physics of Earth's interior. Unlike typical astronomical observatories, which consist of a single instrument at a fixed location, the Deep Carbon Observatory will be a distributed operation, requiring a wide variety of instruments installed at locations around the world.

Scientists believe that the subterranean microbes, some of them isolated from Earth's surface since before the dawn of humanity, crucially influence the engines that drive our planet's interior. The microbes process carbon relatively quickly, making them an important step in the carbon cycle. But the team behind the Deep Carbon Observatory says the project could also answer questions about many other issues.

Eric Betz, ISNS Contributor
Inside Science News Service

Read the full article in Physics Buzz

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