According to a new study carried out by the researchers at the Brown University and published in the Earth and Planetary Science Letters, ancient Mars had the perfect condition for underground life to thrive thanks to the proper chemical energy. However, the scientists only refer to microbial life.
“We showed, based on basic physics and chemistry calculations, that the ancient Martian subsurface likely had enough dissolved hydrogen to power a global subsurface biosphere,” said Jesse Tarnas, the study’s leading author.
The new research revealed that the ancient Mars’ underground would have been rich in hydrogen thanks to radiolysis which is a process via which the water molecules break into their constituent hydrogen and oxygen parts due to the radiations. According to the scientists, the hydrogen concentration beneath Martian crust 4 billion years ago was in the same range with that of the modern-day Earth which sustains microbial life.
Ancient Mars might have possessed the perfect conditions for underground life
“The questions then become: What was the nature of that subsurface life, if it existed, and where did it get its energy? We know that radiolysis helps to provide energy for underground microbes on Earth, so what Jesse did here was to pursue the radiolysis story on Mars,” said Jack Mustard from the Brown University’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences.
Analyzing the data recorded by NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft, the researchers mapped out high volumes of thorium and potassium, two radioactive elements, in the Mars’ soil. Then, they observed the presence of another component in the Martian crust, namely, uranium. As these compounds decay at constant rates, the researchers managed to estimate the volumes of these radioactive elements 4 billion years ago.
The scientists also estimated the approximative amount of water the ancient Mars housed billions of years ago, as well as geothermal and climate characteristics. After linking these estimations with those of the abundances of radioactive elements, the researchers from the Brown Univesity concluded that ancient Mars might have possessed the perfect conditions for underground life.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.