January 26, 2021

Mars can contain enough oxygen to house life

Mars can contain enough oxygen to house life


One study suggests that there may be near-surface environments on Mars with enough oxygen (O2) available for aerobic microbes to breathe, which would mean that the Red Planet could harbor life.

This is indicated by a work published in 'Nature Geosciences' prepared by scientists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Geological and Planetary Sciences Division, both from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena (United States) and from Harvard University , in Cambridge (United States).

Due to oxygen shortage in the modern Martian atmosphere, it is assumed that Mars is unable to produce environments with sufficiently high concentrations of O 2 to support aerobic respiration, but the study, involving Vlada Stamenkovic, Michael Mischna, Lewis M Ward and Woodward W. Fischer, presents a thermodynamic framework for the solubility of O2 in brines under martian conditions near the surface.

This summer, data collected by the Mars Express of the European Space Agency (ESA) pointed to the existence of a pond of liquid water buried under layers of ice and dust in the southern polar region of Mars.

The first results of the spacecraft already discovered that there was water (solid, ice) at the poles of the Red Planet and that this ice was buried in layers interspersed with dust, but on July 25, ESA announced the possibility that this water was liquid. The presence of salts was also revealed.

This new study now finds that modern Mars can support liquid environments with dissolved O2 values ​​with particularly high concentrations in polar regions due to lower temperatures at higher latitudes promoting the entry of oxygen into the brines.

Specifically, the simulations of general circulation models performed by the researchers show that oxygen concentrations in near-surface environments vary both spatially and with time, the latter associated with secular changes in axial obliquity or inclination.

Even within the limits of uncertainties, the findings suggest that there may be near-surface environments on Mars with enough oxygen available for aerobic microbes to breathe.

This discovery may also help explain the formation of highly oxidized phases in the Martian rocks observed with Mars explorers, as well as imply that opportunities for aerobic life may exist on modern Mars and other planetary bodies with independent oxygen sources. photosynthesis.

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