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Studying ancient Earth provides insight into life on extrasolar planets

Narrator:       This is Science Today. A team of geoscientists led by the University of California, Riverside are using mass spectrometers to study chemicals drawn from ancient rocks to get a better glimpse of life on ancient Earth. Chris Reinhard, a graduate student at UC Riverside, says their work is of interest to NASA, too.

Reinhard:       They fund this type of research because they're very interested in how life affects the chemistry of the planetary atmosphere and so when we're looking at these extrasolar plants and trying to figure out if they have a life on them. Sometimes one of the best ways to try and wrap your head around that is to look at the ancient Earth, because we know that there was life around but the composition of the atmosphere and the ocean was likely very different than it is today. So, it kind of gives you sort of reasonable set of boundary conditions that you might look at when you're trying to sort of wrap you head around what do you look at on other plants.

Narrator:       The UC Riverside lab collaborated with campuses all over the country.

Reinhard:       It's been a really incredible experience to get to collaborate with all these different people. The connections that our lab has with other labs has been really crucial.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.