Science

Brines on Mars may not be habitable

Brines on Mars may not be habitable”

"Our results indicate that (meta) stable brines on the Martian surface and its shallow subsurface (a few centimeters deep) are not habitable because their water activities and temperatures fall outside the known tolerances for terrestrial life", the researchers wrote in the study's abstract.

"We used Martian climate information from both atmospheric models and spacecraft measurements".

On Earth, salt loving (halophilic) and cold loving (psychrophilic) microbes populate the kind of habitats that occur on Mars, prompting some scientists to ask whether these transient liquid water environments could be hospitable for life on the Red Planet.

On modern Mars with an average temperature of - 40o C water is only in the deposits of ice and a small amount of vapor in the atmosphere. These results were published this month in Nature Astronomy. One of the researchers, Dr. Alejandro Soto, explained the team's process in coming to that conclusion by analyzing certain parts of Mars "where liquid water temperature and accessibility limits could possibly allow known terrestrial organisms could replicate - to understand if they could be habitable".

A wide range of salts have been detected on Mars, with carbonate and sulfate salts being the most abundant.

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"In my opinion, and that of the science community, the chance that rocks from Mars that are millions of years old will contain an active life form that could infect Earth is extremely low", Hubbard said.

Researchers found that the temperature of the Martian saltwater is quite low for life to thrive.

The presence of brines was spotted for the first time with the help of dark streaks, which were captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. However, it can not go past the six-hour mark, as the brines by that time will have a maximum temperature of 48 degrees Celsius.

They found that brine formation from some salts can lead to liquid water over 40% of the Martian surface but only seasonally, during 2% of the Martian year. While the presence of clay supports the notion Mars may have once had water, it doesn't conclusively prove the planet harbored conditions for life. "We needed to know the seismic properties of the iron-sulfur alloy thought to make up the core of Mars". Before working as director of NASA Ames, Scott Hubbard said he is genuinely concerned that samples of Mars rocks that will be collected in the future have the potential to bring in alien viruses from the Red Planet, so they should be analyzed and quarantined., like the astronauts who brought them.

Rivera-Valentín said: "In our work, we show that the highest temperature a stable brine will experience on Mars is -48°C".



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