Various natural phenomena in Iceland are relevant for astrobiological
research. Studies of thermophiles in different types of hot springs have
been carried out for decades and the new island of Surtsey that was
formed in a submarine volcanic eruption 1963-1967, provided scientists
with a unique opportunity to study how life colonises newly formed land.
In recent years, increased attention has been given to subglacial lakes
beneath the Vatnajökull ice cap, which have been shown to be
habitats for microbial life. Studies are also on-going on the microbial
diversity in pore spaces within new and weathered volcanic rocks in the
Research on various volcanic formations in Iceland has strong relevance for studies of past volcanism on Mars and large plains inundated during catastrophic floods early in the geological history of Mars have counterparts in Iceland. Mountain slopes in plateau basalts and hyaloclastite formations in Iceland display small canyons and gullies that are very similar in morphology to hillside gullies on Mars, which are likely formed by the action of running water.
The above phenomena are being actively studied by researchers at institutes in Iceland and their collaborators in several countries. Key institutes include: