People have searched for life on Mars for many years. A group of scientists believes that they have found a way to identify life on the Red Planet.
What Did Scientists Discover About Acidic Streams?
Scientists from Imperial College London found a link between acidic streams in Dorset, an area in the United Kingdom, and organic matter on Mars. They believe that the types of organisms within the streams could prove that there was once life on Mars.
The findings were published on May 15 in Scientific Reports.
The area of Dorset, specifically St. Oswald's Bay, contains acidic sulfur streams with resilient bacteria. Researchers believe that the same type of organisms thrived on Mars billions of years ago under the same circumstances.
St. Oswald's Bay is home to numerous bacteria, including their fossilized form within rock deposits made out of goethite. This is a similar iron-rich mineral that likely gave Mars its famous red color.
The study states that there might be about 12,000 Olympic-sized pools of similar organic matter on Mars. This evidence could shine some light on what life on Mars was like many years ago.
The Impact Of Looking At Acidic Streams
The researchers hope that their findings will inspire space agencies to look for the fatty acids inside goethite on Martian rocks. They speculate that Mars would be covered with these rocks since it has an acidic environment.
The findings also represent a sharp deviation from previous explorations for life on Mars. In the past, researchers examined rocks for organic matter, which is not sufficient because the extreme heat might have diminished the organic matter. By searching for goethite, researchers are likely to find more examples of life because heat does not destroy the mineral. Similar to the study, researchers believe that examples of life can be found in the same acidic areas like on Earth.
"Mars harbored water billions of years ago, meaning some form of life might have thrived there. If life existed before the water dried up, it would probably have left remains that are preserved to this day in Martian rock," said Mark Sephton, a professor who worked on the study. "However, we have yet to find convincing traces of organic matter that would indicate previous life on the Red Planet."
The next mission to Mars will be in 2020. Searching for life on Mars will be part of the mission, and perhaps this study can influence that.