Ed Rivera-Valentín has spent quite a bit of time thinking about brines recently. The particular ratio of salt to water in the marinade. The special ingredients that can give things an extra kick.

I am referring, of course, to the salty solutions that are found across our solar system, on planets and moons and even asteroids. These would be no good on a Thanksgiving turkey, but they might be one of the most intriguing substances in the search for alien life. Last month, Rivera-Valentín, a planetary scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, in Texas, and other scientists gathered for BrinesCon, the first of three conferences over the next few years devoted to brines. Some water, a pinch of salt—this is the kind of mixture that, under the right conditions, could give life a chance to burble into existence, Rivera-Valentín told me. “When we find life,” he said, “it’s likely going to be associated with a brine.”

Over the years, NASA has pursued a “follow the water” strategy when looking for alien life, dispatching spacecraft to search for traces of H2O on celestial bodies. But “you’re never going to find pure liquid water,” Rivera-Valentín said. “What you’re going …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Science


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