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We’ve written about why scientists believe Mars is one of the places in our solar system most likely to have alien life. There are a few reasons, but it’s mostly about water and what that can support. They’ve found signs of deltas, gullies and rivers that most likely existed in the past, and now another discovery is offering strong support that there was once life on Mars.

Scientists at Arizona State University recently announced they’ve discovered potential biosignatures (essentially more advanced, telling versions of fossils) on Earth that have “remarkably similar features” to some the 2007 Spirit rover found on Mars. They published a report in the scientific journal Nature Communications last week.

Authors Steven W. Ruff and Jack D. Farmer, who are both scientists at ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, studied outflows from hot springs in El Tatio, Chile. The springs are located near the edge of the Atacama Desert, which has striking similarities to the location, called “Home Plate,” explored by the Spirit rover. At over 14,000 feet, they’re the highest known active thermal springs on Earth and reach temperatures below freezing at night. During the day, the springs have thin, dry air and receive high amounts of ultraviolet light. Together, these conditions make El Tatio the best terrestrial analog for ancient Martian hot springs.

NASA director reveals the four places most likely to have alien life in our solar system

What the researchers found was that El Tatio produces silica deposits that appear nearly identical to those found by Spirit in Gusev Crater on Mars. The discovery of these deposits in similar environments on both planets suggests life because it implies they were formed by a similar process—specifically, microbial organisms. 

“We went to El Tatio looking for comparisons with the features found by Spirit at Home Plate,” Ruff said in a statement. “Our results show that the conditions at El Tatio produce silica deposits with characteristics that are among the most Mars-like of any silica deposits on Earth.”

Exploration by the Spirit rover was discontinued in 2010 when the front wheel broke, causing the rover to get stuck and plow across the ground. This mishap is actually what caused the digging that uncovered the rich deposit of pure silica, and now the discovery of the silica deposits in Chile may be enough to send a rover back to that same site on Mars.

NASA has plans to send a new, more advanced rover to an undetermined location on Mars in 2020. To determine where to send it, NASA has been holding workshops where scientists present their best cases for specific landing sites. The candidate sites are then ranked, and Home Plate is currently ranked number two out of the eight sites still in the running.

Ruff and Farmer think this discovery will give Home Plate a very good chance of being selected as the 2020 rover site.

“This is a known hydrothermal deposit,” Ruff said. “We know exactly where to land and where to collect samples. And the silica structures found by Spirit meet the definition of a potential biosigniture.”

Source : https://www.yahoo.com

Categorized in Science & Tech

With the results of the past presidential elections, many Americans are thinking about the future of life in the Red Planet. However, a new study showed that it very difficult for life to exists on Mars today. 

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, showed that the very salty water that can condense in top layers of Martian soils is much less than the moisture present in the driest places on Earth.

"Evidence shows that more than 3 billion years ago Mars was wet and habitable. However, this latest research reaffirms just how dry the environment is today," said Dr Christian Schröder, Lecturer in Environmental Science and Planetary Exploration at the University of Stirling and Science Team Collaborator for the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity mission, in a statement. "For life to exist in the areas we investigated, it would need to find pockets far beneath the surface, located away from the dryness and radiation present on the ground."

For the study, the researchers examined a cluster of meteorites at Meridiani Planum using data from the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. By studying the chemical weathering rate of the meteorite on Mars, the researchers were able to demonstrate the lack of water on the surface of the red planet. 

The researchers found out that it would take at least 10 and possibly up to 10,000 times longer for rust to form from the metallic iron present in meteorites on Mars to reach the same levels of rust formation than in the driest desserts of Earth. Rust formation is chemical weathering process that depends on the presence of water.

With their findings, the researchers have reasons to believe that the current environment of the Red Planet may not be suitable for life. Furthermore, evidence points out that Mars is incredibly dry and has remained to be as such for millions of years.

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Source : natureworldnews.com

Categorized in Science & Tech
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