Extremities:  Geology and Life in Yellowstone and Implications for Other Worlds


New Pit is a small hole with water in the bottom, not a free-flowing spring. The air above it is sulfurous and rich in carbon dioxide -- a suffocation hazard!

Near New Pit
D. Ward and Rene

The Mammoth Hot Springs complex near New Pit. The ridge is a linear mound of hot-spring calcite. New Pit is about fifty meters to the right of this view.
New Pit, with Dr. D. Ward and Rene. Water does not flow onto the ground surface from New Pit - it is really a well. Say goodbye to the sunglasses.
The Color Purple
In the Pits

Close-up of purple sulfur bacterial mat in New Pit, field of view about eight inches across. This mat is dominantly the purple sulfur microbe Chromatium, which metabolizes hydrogen sulfide dissolved in the water to make its organic molecules: CO2 + 2 H2S = CH2O + 2 S + H2O (where CH2O is part of a carbohydrate). This reaction is anoxygenic photosynthesis -- photosynthesis that does not make oxygen. Green plants start with H2O (water), use the hydrogens, and discard the oxygen; Chromatium and many other microbes start with H2S, use the hydrogen, and discard the S (sulfur). Chromatium deposits the waste sulfur in its cells as cute little pearls.

Dr. D. Ward and Sheri Klug (Arizona State U.) collect the sample of the purple mat that we used for reflectance spectroscopy back in the lab. The water in New Pit is at 51C, pH = 6.8, and moderate sulfur content.

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Updated 11/15/02.
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