The expedition proposed the name "Aurora" for the vent field. Brilliant orange and yellow patches appeared, and the camera began climbing, moving up a stunningly steep, craggy wall. Now that we’re here, Chris German isn’t paying much attention to the dramatic seascape. “This is a lot more than we knew was here.”. “Wherever we’ve looked on planet Earth and found liquid water, we’ve found life.”. Previous expedition found vent Researchers were allowed to use the RV Kronprins Haakon, Norway’s new icebreaker, and departed from Longyearbyen, on the arctic archipelago of Svalbard, on September 19. Hydrothermal vents form along mid-ocean ridges, in places where the sea floor moves apart very slowly (6 to 18 cm per year) as magma wells up from below. The only organisms that really appear to thrive in the area are two types of glass sponges, creatures named for their filigreed, glassy skeletons. The high-resolution camera that proved so vital to the mission, called the Ocean Floor Observation and Bathymetry System, or OFOBS, was initially mis-bundled with gear destined for a different polar expedition. “If climate change gets rid of the ice, this will become a more used route to go to the Pacific, and it could become an open area for potential mining, for fisheries ... it’s good to know what’s there.”, What’s more, the Aurora vents could hold the keys to detecting life-forms in the deep oceans on alien worlds. Hydrothermal vent fields discovered in the southern Gulf of California clarify role of habitat in augmenting regional diversity. Chris German is a Co-Lead Investigator for the Astrobiology Program’s Research Coordination Network (RCN), the Network for Ocean Worlds (NOW). (This is the engine that drives Earth's tectonic plates apart, moving continents and causing volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.) The organisms that survive on the resources billowing out from the ocean floor seem to be sparse compared to other sites. Sometimes measuring more than three feet across, and with lifespans predicted to span centuries, these glass sponges are occasionally said to be barely alive. Instead, he’s staring intently at a live feed of the seafloor, and he’s trying on hats. A few feet away the divers found the same creatures as in other areas — sea urchins, anemones, sponges and other organisms — seemingly unaffected by the high water temperature and gases. Aurora hydrothermal vent is found on Gakkel Ridge, in the High North of the Arctic Ocean. It requires 3 parts scanned to obtain the ingredient list for this object. The continual extrusion of mineral-rich, superheated seawater provides the heat and energy needed for some organisms to thrive in these cold, dark depths, including a menagerie of vent-specific gigantic tube worms, foot-long clams, blind shrimp, and extreme microbes. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientists at the Aurora field discovered that, unlike most Dissolved metal sulfides other hydrothermal hot spots, the Aurora field’s biodiversity is very Without NUI, even catching a glimpse of the vent meant relying only on OFOBS, the high-resolution camera. What kind of chemistry is involved? Mordor,” German said of the giant vent. She and Hans Tore Rapp, a taxonomist from the University of Bergen, suspect that the Arctic seafloor might be sparsely populated primarily because the north polar ocean is still geologically young—roughly 60 million years old—and deep-sea fauna may not have had enough time to find their way into these waters and adapt to the extreme conditions. But on this violet evening, after hours of drifting over a muddy seafloor, a high-resolution camera towed beneath the ship at last passed directly over a gaping maw in Earth’s crust. NASA Scientists Confirm Water Vapor on Europa Nov. 20, 2019. At the Aurora site, a three-foot-tall chimney billows black smoke (upper right) near fallen chimneys fanned out along the seafloor like tree trunks in a forest. "We found more hydrothermal activity on this cruise than in 20 years of exploration on the mid-Atlantic Ridge," said Charles Langmuir, co-chief scientist on Healy from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) at Columbia University. Just two hours before it was time to head home, the team caught their first glimpse of a small chimney, a fleeting photobomb by a smoking vent that slid into the margins of several frames. “We knew there had to be more than what we saw in 2014.”. Can the vent support a deep-sea ecosystem, and if so, what kinds of organisms live there? The icebreaker Kronprins Haakon cuts a dark path through Arctic ice cover as scientists with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution get ready to launch the Nereid Under Ice robotic submersible. The bright orange submersible has an on-board brain that lets it function human-free, yet it can also be remotely piloted, meaning that scientists watching a live feed from its cameras can tell it to pluck specific animals from the deep-sea floor, dunk collecting tubes into particular sediments, and dip specially designed probes straight into the effervescent, sulfuric fluid erupting from a hydrothermal vent. But the vent signatures written into the freezing sea suggested that something much more massive must lie below. It’s one of the most northward vent field yet recognized, and also it’s among the deepest worldwide, resting almost 2.5 miles listed below an irreversible covering of sea ice. During that cruise, a layer of murky water detected near the seafloor hinted at vent activity, and a rock-dredge pulled up the remains of an extinct chimney. The observations raise some tantalising possibilities for what might be lurking in the seas beyond Earth, where sunlight is scarce and the only reliable form of energy might be chemically generated by the heaving innards of an ice-crusted moon. (1966) for historical measurements : Aurora: … Using the Ocean Floor Observation and Bathymetry System (OFOBS) high-resolution camera and WHOI’s Nereid Under Ice (NUI) submersible, the researchers found that the remote Aurora field shows stark differences to hydrothermal vent fields further south. Checking out the deep sea, like venturing right into deep room, is a high-risk undertaking. ), “Alien oceans beyond Earth are so compelling in the search for life elsewhere,” says National Geographic Explorer Kevin Hand, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who took part in the Aurora expedition. The Alien Vents are a huge network of pipes, created by the Precursor Race that stretches out in the crust of Planet 4546B. Ana Hilário, an ecologist from Portugal’s Universidade de Aveiro, was particularly stunned by the absence of Sclerolinum, a type of polychaete worm that’s abundant elsewhere in the deep sea. In general, oceanic hydrothermal vents arise when seawater seeps through cracks in Earth’s crust and mingles with hot rocks beneath the surface; those buried molten rocks heat the saltwater and fuel chemical reactions that erupt in a roiling mass through vents in Earth’s crust. Based on the extensive heaps of sulphides and extinct chimneys, the Aurora vents have almost certainly been active for millennia, perhaps seeding the Arctic seafloor with heat and minerals since before humans first arrived in the Americas. The research site could provide invaluable insight concerning habitable environments on icy worlds like Europa and Enceladus, and could also act as a test bed for methods and technologies that could be used to explore these distant worlds with future missions. Photo: E. Ramirez-Llodra, NIVA. Aim: Vent-associated microbial activity in the water column: 2009: “Satanic, like the satanic mills of the Industrial Revolution. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Nereid Under Ice (NUI) reaching icy waters. During a second cruise in 2014, German and his colleagues returned to Aurora aboard the icebreaker Polarstern. The team is interested in whether the ice above the vent holds signatures of the chemistry and biology churning along the seamount far below. Additional Co-Leads for NOW include Alyssa Rhoden (Southwest Research Institute), Alison Murray (Desert Research Institute), and Kevin Arrigo (Stanford University). The high-tech submersible was nearly lost to the deep, and the team mostly relied on a non-steerable camera towed behind the ship to find and record scenes from the Aurora vents. As the ship drifted, the cloud expanded into a massive black plume that engulfed the camera and continued billowing upward for nearly half a mile. Map Illustration of RV Kronprins Haakon’s journey from Longyearbyen on Svalbard shows the distance covered by the ship. Nadia Drake is a contributing writer at National Geographic, and is on assignment with the HACON team as it explores the Aurora hydrothermal vent field. That evening, scientists were clustered around TV screens throughout the ship, anxiously watching the seafloor drift by under the inky twilight. Instead of rising, NUI stopped moving, its depth reading becoming a foreboding line that marched across a screen in the ship’s control room. This elusive zone is called the Aurora hydrothermal vent field. “Aurora is a seamount on the ocean floor, a volcanic structure containing hydrothermal vents . Additional Information:Network for Ocean WorldsNASA Makes Dual Investment in Ocean Worlds Research at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Nereid Under Ice explores Aurora hydrothermal vent field (WHOI). Greenland on the left. It’s the most northerly vent field yet known, and it’s among the deepest in the world, sitting nearly 2.5 miles below a permanent covering of sea ice. A view into a sinkhole in the Aurora hydrothermal field sediments shows geologic layers going back through time. The 50-foot-tall formation came out of nowhere—pinnacles of volcanic material vomited from beneath the seafloor. Chris German and his team spent twenty-eight days at sea in September and October aboard the Norwegian icebreaker, Kronprins Haakon. This past September, Chris German of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) joined a team of explorers to seek out and study the Aurora hydrothermal vent field in the ice-covered waters north of Greenland. Buoyed by that discovery, this year’s expedition, known by the acronym HACON, aimed to put the Aurora vent field into context. This area is one of the world’s slowest spreading and deepest mid-ocean ridges, along which lies the Aurora vent-field and its underwater hot springs. However, these observations come from only a handful of images that the team was able to capture, and only future exploration of the Aurora hydrothermal vent field will provide a complete picture of this unique ecosystem. Without many samples from the site’s life-forms, for instance, the team doesn’t have the genetic material needed to easily answer several of their pressing questions about how creatures move between ocean basins. The deeper white layers may represent hydrothermally altered volcanic rocks, while dark grey volcanic rock becomes visible at the base of the depression. Fortunately, NUI dove to the seafloor after being fixed up and collected some glass sponges from a spot near the vent. The Lost City Hydrothermal Field, often referred to simply as Lost City, is an area of marine alkaline hydrothermal vents located on the Atlantis Massif at the intersection between the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Atlantis Transform Fault, in the Atlantic Ocean. “Nowhere is precluded from having hydrothermal activity,” German says. “There’s almost no cost to build skeleton.”. Kevin Hand says that a lot of the work he’s doing at NASA involves figuring out what kinds of biosignatures to look for in the icy sheaths cocooning alien seas. Figure 1: R/V Kronprins Haakon sailing through thin ice between two large ice floes. A red shrimp nearly two inches long swims over an outcrop of pillow lava decorated with large glass sponges and the sediment-dusted stalks of dead sponges in the Aurora hydrothermal field. Exploring the deep sea, like venturing into deep space, is a high-risk endeavour. Image credit: Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Every 10 minutes or so, he plops a different hat on his head, rotating through haberdashery that includes a faux sealskin ushanka, a woven orange fez, and a beanie from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he works. Later tows would reveal even more black smokers on the seafloor. (Find out more with our interactive atlas of moons. At these bursting planetary seams, the brisk spreading of Earth’s crust means that fresh magma is always available to fuel the vents. A NASA remotely operated vehicle investigates the waters underneath multi-year ice sheets in the high Arctic Ocean. That’s one of the reasons he’s studying Aurora’s ice, to figure out if it holds signs of the life-supporting vents that scientists can learn to recognize—on Earth and, perhaps, on other worlds. This smoker was clearly a behemoth that dwarfed the average chimney. Later that night, the same camera would fly over the site twice more; and multiple passes over the next week would reveal wildly rugged terrain populating the southern slope of the Aurora seamount. … “We can dispense with that myth now.”. The pale yellow staining is due to iron oxides produced by vent microbes, while the white dots are organisms clustered around the vent, which is spewing nutrient-rich fluids that are more than 290°C. Engineers tried to coax it to float back up on its own, triggering a fail-safe mechanism that should have released its dive weights and restored buoyancy. First Detection of Sugars in Meteorites Gives Clues to Origin of Life Nov. 19, 2019. Fortunately, NUI resurfaced after three days; the fail-safe had simply taken a little longer to work than anticipated. The Thermal Plant is a generator crafted with the Habitat Builder that converts nearby high temperatures (>25°C) into Energy. Even microbial mats, although visible in some areas, are conspicuously lean. The article can be found here. Exploring the Aurora Hydrothermal Vent ... WHOI’s Nereid Under Ice (NUI) submersible being lowered into the water. This elusive zone is called the Aurora hydrothermal vent field. Outside, the sinking sun is colouring the autumnal sky a brilliant lavender, a rich hue that lingers over a vast blanket of ice. For a long time, canonical wisdom had suggested that hydrothermal vent activity could only exist at the fastest spreading mid-ocean ridges—places like the East Pacific Rise, where Earth’s tectonic plates are hustling away from one another at speeds of around seven inches a year. “The likelihood that it’s resting on the bottom is pretty high—in which case, game over,” Andy Bowen, director of WHOI’s National Deep Submergence Facility, finally said. “Using the ice as a window to the ocean below,” he says, “this is relevant to how we actually learn about these oceans that are beyond Earth.”, SubscribePrivacy Policy(UPDATED)Terms of ServiceCookie PolicyPolicies & ProceduresContact InformationWhere to WatchConsent ManagementCookie Settings. Scientists first went prospecting for hydrothermal plumes along the Gakkel Ridge in 2001. “We knew coming out there would be difficult, that we would face challenges, but this is beyond any of our expectations,” said Benedicte Ferre, a physical oceanographer at the University of Tromsø. Astronomers discover weird, giant, alien moon, Iconic radio telescope in Puerto Rico to be demolished, Iconic radio telescope in Puerto Rico is at risk of collapsing, One of Jupiter's icy moons may glow in the dark, Earth’s oceans may hold the key to finding life beyond our planet, how deep-sea exploration fuels the search for alien life. They estimate that worldwide, deep-sea hydrothermal vent microbial communities can produce more than 4,000 tons of organic carbon each day, the building block of life. Better understanding this remote biosphere could help scientists figure out how creatures move through Earth’s deep oceans, and whether Arctic waters form a pathway for animals moving between the Atlantic and Pacific basins. The results offer our best look yet at such an exotic, ice-shrouded ecosystem. Site, 200 miles north of Greenland and swept downhill to this location and! While dark grey volcanic rock becomes visible at the Aurora hydrothermal vent field Nowhere is from. Iron and filaments were microbial cells and are similar to modern aurora hydrothermal vent in! Scavenging, shrimp-like crustaceans called amphipods journey from Longyearbyen on Svalbard shows the distance covered by the Precursor that. 'Ve got a solid farm going they work really well even octopi we saw 2014.! 2009: the expedition and its results credit: Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic (. “ Nowhere is precluded from having hydrothermal activity, ” Rapp says inky twilight icy... 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