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How Martian Microbes Can Survive in the Salty Puddles of the Red Planet



In extremely salty puddles of water resembling those found on Mars, bacteria can survive after being completely withered, suggesting that the Red Planet can be more habitable than previously thought, according to a new study. Life, practically everywhere there is water on Earth, exploring whether Mars was ever able to meet life – and whether it can still accept it – usually focuses on the past or current presence of liquid water at or below its surface. However, the cold, thin atmosphere that Mars has today means that liquid water may not exist on its surface for any length of time. Still, just before dawn, the evaporation of frozen surfaces on the Martian surface can lead to 100 percent humidity, says senior research author Marc Schneged, an astrobiologist at Wichita State University in Kansas. At its peak, the humidity of Mars may resemble the drier parts of the Atacama desert in Chile the driest place on Earth aside from the poles, which are still home to life.

Cold world, hot topic: Can microbes survive on Mars?

In addition, various salts, which are often found on the surface of Mars, can absorb this moisture. Since the glowing fluids that result have a lower freezing point than the water, they could withstand the cold temperatures prevailing on the Red Planet's surface ̵

1; and potentially the harbor life [1959004]. The Martian surface falls during the day when temperatures rise. As such, any germs on Mars will probably have to deal with continuous drying. To see if Martian life can survive these drying cycles, scientists experiment with two types of bacteria taken from two highly salty zones – Hot Lake in Washington and the Great Salt Plains in Oklahoma. They had grown them in the laboratory in a solution that was half water and half magnesium sulfate, known as Epsom salt, a type of salt common to the Martian surface.

Researchers follow dried small drops of this bacterially loaded solution, water-absorbing chemicals in vacuum to mimic how brine on the Martian surface can evaporate. Finally, they put the dry drops in a jar of plain water or salt water and let the jar fill with humidity. Within one day, scientists have discovered that dried droplets absorb enough moisture from the air to make brine liquid at which point the bacteria come alive and grow. More than half the cells have survived

"We have the first data showing the growth of the bacteria after drying and then rehydration only by humidity, in the presence of salts that absorb moisture from the air," Schneider told Space.com.

These discoveries can extend what scientists consider habitable when it comes to dry or cold worlds, "said Schneider. This can also mean that there is a greater risk than it was thought Earth microbes can pollute other worlds .

In the future, researchers can investigate how well these bacteria function at the lower temperatures typical of Mars

Scientists have identified their findings on June 21 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Microbiology in San Francisco Q. Chocolate on Twitter @cqchoi . Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook .


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