Scientists are one step closer to discovering life onMars. Until now, they had little idea what exactly they need to pay attention to when studying data from Mars rovers in order to find traces of life. But recently it turned out that on the surface of the planet it is necessary to look for traces of phosphates of iron, manganese and aluminum. This became known thanks to an experiment that was carried out by Austrian scientists. They took a real (!) Fragment of the Martian surface and placed bacteria on it, which could potentially inhabit Mars billions of years ago. At that time, the atmosphere of the planet was rich in carbon dioxide, so bacteria had to be grown in the same extreme conditions. To the surprise of scientists, they felt great and left a trace in the form of phosphates, so on Mars you need to look for them. This is an important discovery for the scientific community, so let's find out how the experiment was carried out and where did scientists get a real meteorite from Mars?
Martian meteorite on Earth
Martian soil will be delivered to Earth onlya few years later, as part of the Perseverance mission. But scientists already have a small fragment of Mars in the form of a meteorite, which was discovered in 2011, in the Sahara Desert. This is one of the rarest stones on Earth, which has even been given the name "Black Beauty". It is believed to have been formed about 4.4 billion years ago, at a time when the planet Mars was in its early stages. Scientists believe that even then, life could exist on the Red Planet. And this despite the fact that in those days its atmosphere consisted almost entirely of carbon dioxide.
Who are extremophiles?
The first living creatures on Mars could have beenextremophiles. The so-called organisms that are able to feel good in places where life seems impossible. Extremophiles exist even on our planet and are found in the salt waters of Antarctica and even inside volcanoes. Scientists are eager to find traces of their existence on Mars, but no one knew exactly how their tracks looked. Yes, scientists know what substances extremophiles leave on the earth's surface. But the surface of Mars has a different composition, and its atmosphere was very different millions of years ago.
See also: Why are people so eager to get to Mars?
Extremophiles on Mars
To figure out what the footprints look like potentiallybacteria that lived on Mars, Austrian scientists conducted an experiment. Extremophiles of the species Metallosphaera sedula, which live in volcanic springs, were placed on a small fragment of a Martian meteorite. The bacteria rock was left inside the chamber with conditions that were relevant to Mars billions of years ago. That is, the cell was hot and contained a lot of carbon dioxide. Scientists observed the behavior of extremophiles through a special microscope.
According to astrobiologist Tetyana Miloevich (TetyanaMilojevic), organisms grown on a Martian meteorite left behind a film of iron, manganese and aluminum phosphates. According to the scientific publication Science Alert, the Perseverance apparatus that recently arrived on Mars should search for just such substances in the soil. If they are suddenly discovered, the chances that life existed or exists on Mars will increase many times over. If traces of bacteria are not detected by the apparatus, they can be found by scientists when samples of Martian soil are sent to Earth.
So what have we learned from scientific work?Austrian scientists? First, it became known that scientists already have a real fragment of Mars. This meteorite was found in quite distant 2011, but many people have not even heard of it. Second, we now know that we need to look for phosphates of iron, manganese and aluminum on the Martian surface. Their discovery would mean that there were or are extremophiles on Mars - organisms that are able to survive even in the harshest conditions. Most likely, chemolithotrophs once lived on the Red Planet. This is the name for bacteria that can convert carbon dioxide into energy.
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Perhaps traces of the ancient inhabitants of Mars needwill search at a depth of approximately 30 centimeters. There may be a moist soil layer where, in addition to traces of extremophiles, living halophilic organisms can be found. This is the name for the microbes that can live in high salinity conditions. You can read more about them in this article.