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Radiation Eaters

Photo Gallery
Photo 1
This tunnel leads to the section of the Mponeng gold mine in South Africa where the “radiation-eating” microbes were found in water flowing from a fracture in the rock.
Credit: Duane P. Moser, Desert Research Institute

Photo 2
Student researcher Brett Tipple of Indiana University stands in front of the Mponeng fracture two months before mine crews tunneled through it.
Credit: Duane P. Moser, Desert Research Institute

Photo 3
This borehole at the Mponeng fracture site was still releasing ancient underground water two months after it was first intersected by the tunneling, although its rate of flow had greatly diminished.
Credit: Duane P. Moser, Desert Research Institute

Photo 4
The borehole was fitted with a sterilized sampling manifold to collect water, gas and microbial samples.
Credit: Duane P. Moser, Desert Research Institute

Photo 5
Researcher Erik Boice, part of a multi-institutional team searching for exotic microbes in South Africa, ascends on a wooden ladder from Kloof #4 Gold Mine near Carletonville.
Credit: Courtesy of Lisa M. Pratt, The Trustees of Indiana University, NASA, National Science Foundation

Photo 6
Tullis Onstott of Princeton University, co-leader of the group of researchers from nine collaborating institutions, opens a borehole in a section of rock wall near the area where the “radiation-eating” microbes were found.
Credit: Courtesy of Lisa M. Pratt, The Trustees of Indiana University, NASA, National Science Foundation

Photo 7
Lisa Pratt of Indiana University, co-leader of the multi-institutional team, monitors water flow through filters deep in the Kloof #4 Gold Mine.
Credit: Courtesy of Lisa M. Pratt, The Trustees of Indiana University, NASA, National Science Foundation

Photo 8
Researchers use different kinds of filters fitted onto collection equipment to trap different types of biological specimens. The cartridges, valves and connecting lines shown here were sterilized in an autoclave prior to deployment in Kloof #4 Gold Mine. The team took water samples for nearly two months at the site.
Credit: Courtesy of Lisa M. Pratt, The Trustees of Indiana University, NASA, National Science Foundation

Photo 9
Once samples are removed for analysis, they must be shielded from contact with oxygen in the air. Here, researcher James Hall, working in a temporary microbiology lab set up near the mines, places water from deep in the rock into a microbial growth medium.
Credit: Courtesy of Lisa M. Pratt, The Trustees of Indiana University, NASA, National Science Foundation

Photo 10
This color-enhanced scanning electron microscope image shows unidentified microbes found in water from a different fracture zone than the one containing “radioactivity eating” organisms. This fracture was about a mile from any current or historical mining activity, and thus minimally affected by human intrusion.
Credit: G. Wanger and G. Southam, University of Western Ontario

Photo 11
Dusty roads lead to one of the microbe research sites in the deep gold mines of South Africa.
Credit: From "The Sacred Balance." Used by permission from Kensington Communications, Inc., www.sacredbalance.com

Photo 12
At a mine in South Africa, students from the University of Tennessee collect water samples and scrape biofilm off the rock wall under the supervision of professor Derek Litthauer (far left). The 2003 field work was part of a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program.
Credit: Susan Pfiffner, University of Tennessee

Photo 13
This microscope image shows metal-oxidizing bacteria found in biofilm samples taken from a South African gold mine by University of Tennessee students.
Credit: Courtesy of University of Tennessee, Knoxville and University of the Free State, South Africa's Research Experiences for Undergraduates program