Life On Mars? Scientists Say There May Be 12,000 Olympic-Sized Pools Of Organic Matter On Mars

A new study published by scientists from the Imperial College London suggests there could be as much as 12,000 Olympic sized pools of organic matter on the red planet.

After examining Dorset’s acidic stream, scientists believe there could be as much as 12,000 Olympic sized pools of organic matter on the red planet.

Based on analysis of acidic streams in St. Oswald’s Bay on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, England, scientists believe up to 12,000 Olympic sized pools of organic matter may exist on the red planet. Experts say that modern-day streams found in Dorset are similar to Mars0 ancient waterways.

Scientists studied acidic streams in Dorset because they are ‘eerily similar’ to the environment on Mars, billions of years ago.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

The study from Imperial College London has found traces of fatty acids—a key ingredient in the development of life, on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset’s acidic streams.

By applying their discovery from Dorset to Mars, experts say that there could be around 12,000 Olympic sized pools of organic matter on Mars, bearing traces of past life on the red planet.

Dorset’s acidic sulfur streams are home to bacteria capable of surviving extreme conditions. These precise conditions say scientists may have been present on the surface of Mars in the distant past.

Scientists from Imperial College London examined the organic matter preserved in rock deposits near Dorset.

Water existed on Mars billions of years ago.

It is believed that an iron-rich mineral called goethite—which transforms to hermatite—is the reason why Mars is gifted with its traditional red color.

Professor Mark Sephton Sephton from Imperial’s Department of Earth Science & Engineering said: “We thought that if these iron-rich minerals harbor traces of life on Earth, then they might hold clues to past microbial life on the Red Planet.”

Scientists believe if the iron-rich minerals harbored traces of life on Earth, these may also hold important clues of possible past microbial life on the surface of Mars.

Speaking about the new study and what it implies, co-author Jonathan Tan, from the Department of Earth Science & Engineering said:

“St Oswald’s Bay is a present-day microcosm of middle-aged Mars. As the acid streams dry up, like during Mars’ “drying period,” they leave goethite minerals behind which preserve fatty acids that act as biological signatures.”

Water On Mars

According to Professor Sephton, the red planet had water billions of years ago, and it is possible that life, as we know it, may have thrived on Earth’s neighboring planet.

“Mars harbored water billions of years ago, meaning some form of life might have thrived there. If life existed before the water dried up, it would probably have left remains that are preserved to this day in Martian rock. We have yet to find convincing traces of organic matter that would indicate previous life on the Red Planet – but now we know which rocks to focus on,” explained Professor Sephton.

To test out their theory, the researchers are looking to the next life-searching mission to Mars, Mars 2020, to look for these dried streams and examine the sediment for possible traces of fatty acids.

Source: Imperial College London— Scientists use Dorset, UK, as a model to help find traces of life on Mars

Featured Image Credit: An acidic stream in Dungy Head, Lulworth Cove, on the eastern end of St Oswald’s Bay–Imperial College London / NASA 

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