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Polar science explores life's origins

Antarctic scientists are trying to unravel the secrets of earth's climate in order to get a better understanding of the origins of life and the universe.

This is however not an easy task as the scientists have to find answers for many questions. Scientists from across the globe have submitted eight hundred questions and 75 Antarctic scientists and policymakers from 22 countries will take up thee questions in Queenstown in April.

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) has decided to find answers to 80 questions and these questions have been condensed to six broad themes. The findings of the study are published in science journal Nature on Thursday.

One of the themes finalized by the scientists is space and the universe. "The dry, cold and stable Antarctic atmosphere creates some of the best conditions on earth for observing space," a group of the SCAR scientists, including Monash University's professor of biological sciences Steven L. Chown, write in Nature.

"Lakes beneath Antarctic glaciers mimic conditions on Jupiter and Saturn's icy moons, and meteorites collected on the continent reveal how the solar system formed and inform astrobiology," Chown added.

The other research themes are:

- defining the global reach of the Antarctic atmosphere and Southern Ocean

- understanding how, where and why ice sheets lose mass

- revealing Antarctica's history

- learning how Antarctic life evolved and survived

- recognising and mitigating human influences.

"Once seen as a desolate place frozen in time, Antarctica is now known to be experiencing relentless change," the Nature editorial says.

"Local transformations such as the loss of ice, changes in ocean circulation and recovery of atmospheric ozone have global consequences - for climate, sea level, biodiversity and society," it added.