A large number of microorganisms have been discovered high in Earth's atmosphere, suggesting that life above Earth's surface is thriving and ever-changing. While some microbes appear to be just passing through, others appear to survive by breaking down organic chemicals in the sky, according to findings published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "There are a few species that are quite abundant," said Kostas Konstantinidis, an environmental microbiologist and the study's co-author. "That becomes very interesting -- what are all these cells doing up there, and how do they survive?"

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