According to a new report, life on Mars may be even harder to find and even more inhospitable than initially believed. A team of researchers concluded that the Red Planet has such a toxic soil, that not even a particular kind of bacteria, which can also be found on Earth, would survive on it.
Still, the study points out that this doesn’t necessarily mean that Mars didn’t once hold life forms, or that it couldn’t do so sometime in the future
The Toxic Soil on Mars, Activated by Ultraviolet Sun Rays
This latest research on Mars comes from a team of University of Edinburgh investigators. These conducted lab tests that analyzed and experimented with Martian soil. They specifically studied the behavior and reactions of a specific chemical compound named perchlorate.
This can be found on our planet as well, for example in the Atacama Desert, but in lesser concentrations than on the Red Planet. Perchlorate was first discovered in the Martian soil back in 2008 by the Phoenix Lander mission.
The research team conducted its study by replicating the condition on our neighboring planet. They did so to see the perchlorate’s reaction to the Bacillus subtilis, a bacteria. Results show that Bacillus cultures were killed within minutes by the perchlorates. These can be activated by the high heat of the ultraviolet light released by the Sun.
“Although the toxic effects of oxidants on the Martian surface have been suspected for some time, our observations show that the surface of present-day Mars is highly deleterious to cells, caused by a toxic cocktail of oxidants, iron oxides, perchlorates and UV irradiation,” states the study team.
Mars seems to have an even more toxic soil when compared to the effects of just perchlorates alone. Combining this compound with hydrogen peroxide and iron oxides led to a ten-fold increase in the bacteria’s death.
The toxic soil on Mars was, as such, proven to make the planet even more inhospitable than initially believed. Still, that doesn’t mean that Mars has been always unable to hold lifeforms. Research indicates that the planet was once warm and wet.
Further studies will be looking to determine the perchlorate’s effects on vegetal cultures. Current research results are available in the journal Scientific Reports.
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