Mars Might Have Suffered The Same Fate As Earth

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Mars Might Have Suffered The Same Fate As Earth

Mars has always been on scientists’ radar to hunt for signs of ancient life. The decades-long research has found compelling evidence that indicates the planet might have harnessed life billions of years ago. According to a new study, Mars would’ve hosted subterranean microbes called methanogenic microbes that produced methane.

 

The researchers suggest that since methane is a climate driver, those microbes could have damaged the planet’s atmosphere beyond repair, wiping all Martian life in the process. Currently, the planet lies as a barren desert in the solar system, but extensive research and missions have revealed that Mars once had water bodies such as lakes, rivers, and even oceans. It means the planet was once capable of harnessing life as well.

Did Mars Harness Life Four Billion Years Ago?

The study also suggests that the presence of hydrogen in the Martian atmosphere could've helped methanogenic organisms sustain around four billion years ago, a time when the Martian climate is believed to be best suited for sustaining life.

A team of researchers including senior author Regis Ferrière, who is a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, used different models to predict the temperature of Mars’ crust and its surface. They also studied how hypothetical ecosystems could have sustained within such temperatures.

"Our goal was to make a model of the Martian crust with its mix of rock and salty water, let gases from the atmosphere diffuse into the ground, and see whether methanogens could live with that," said Ferrière. "And the answer is, generally speaking, yes, these microbes could have made a living in the planet's crust," he added.

No Energy Source For Life To Sustain

The author explained that due to the cold temperature of the surface, the microbes would have been in a comfortable position in the "upper few hundreds of meters" of the planet’s crust. But since these microbes were living underground, they were not lasting for a long time.

 

"The problem these microbes would have then faced is that Mars' atmosphere basically disappeared, completely thinned, so their energy source would have vanished and they would have had to find an alternate source of energy," said the study's first author Boris Sauterey, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Paris.

"In addition to that, the temperature would have dropped significantly, and they would have had to go much deeper into the crust. For the moment, it is very difficult to say how long Mars would have remained habitable,"

This theory is a testament to the Red Planet’s rich history and how much of it is yet to be understood. But nonetheless, it is a huge leap in the hunt for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet.

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