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Scientists find that extremely hardy bacteria—similar to that found in some of the most inhospitable places on Earth—could survive on the Red Planet’s hazardous environment.
There are now many scientists who firmly agree on the idea that it is only a matter of time before alien life on Mars is announced. Their confidence comes from a number of discoveries that have been made in the last couple of years on Mars.
Now, scientists have made another shocking discovery as they have found that extremely hardy bacteria could survive in the Red Planet’s hazardous environment.
By mimicking conditions on Mars in a laboratories, scientists found that a type of salt in the soil called magnesium perchlorate could prevent water from freezing beneath the surface of the red planet.
This is a huge thing.
A similar process can be seen on Earth beneath Arctic glaciers and even beneath volcanoes.
On Earth, bacteria has been able to survive leading many scientists to conclude that the same thing could happen on Mars, beneath its surface.
Temperatures on Mars are extreme. Surface temperatures can reach around 20 degrees Celsius on the Equator, and -153 degrees Celsius at the poles.
Mars has an average surface temperature of -55 degrees Celsius, which means that liquid on Mars cannot—should not—exist.
However, Martian soil samples gathered by the Phoenix Lander in 2009 discovered calcium and powerful oxidants, including magnesium perchlorate, which can survive these low temperatures on the red planet.
Dr. Lorna Dougan, from the university’s school of physics and astronomy said:
“We found these observations quite intriguing. It gives a different perspective of how salts dissolve in water. The magnesium perchlorate is clearly a major contributing factor on the freezing point of this solution and paves the way for understanding how a fluid might exist under the sub-freezing conditions of Mars.”
This raises interesting question regarding life on Mars.
“It raises interesting questions about the possibility of life on Mars. If the structure of Martian water is highly pressurized, perhaps we might expect to find organisms adapted to high pressure life similar to piezophiles on Earth, such as deep sea bacteria and other organisms that thrive at high pressure.”
“This highlights the importance of studying life in extreme environments in both terrestrial and non-terrestrial environments so that we can fully understand the natural limits of life.”
Martian Brine, helping Mars stay…wet
The surface of Mars is damp with liquid brain due to the presence of perchlorate solutions which significantly lower the freezing point of water.
NASA’s Curiosity Rover has proven, based on measurements taken on the Gale Crater that during winter nights until just after sunrise, temperature and humidity on Mars are ‘perfect’ for liquid brine to form.
When mixed with water, ‘Martian Brine’ can exist down to temperature of -70 degrees Celsius.
Furthermore, the salt on the surface also soaks up water vapor from the atmosphere, keeping the red planet wet. Observations also showed how charged hydrogen ions become partially segregated in the salty solution which may be one of the main contributors that stops the water on Mars from freezing.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.