The search for alien life heats up as astronomers say that Mars’ icy extremities could hold either dormant or ‘slow-metabolizing’ life within. This created expectancy for many scientists looking for alien life outside of Earth.
Humans have long believed that life could be lurking out on the Red Planet, with NASA sending rovers that operate on Mars’ surface for a while; a British-built probe is also scheduled to head there in 2022 to seek for molecular life. However, deciding the best regions to search for living organisms is rather challenging, as the planet is more than half the size of Earth.
Bacteria ‘Consistent With Early Life’ Was Found
Astronomers have said that there is a high possibility that we’ll find life roaming at the Martian poles. They explain that the planet’s altering rotation trajectory over time could mean that life ‘springs back to an active state’ when the poles begin to warm up.
“Everything we know about biology would suggest that if there is some sort of bacterial life at Mars’ poles,” said Jacqueline Campbell, a planetary science doctoral candidate at Britain’s Mullard Space Science Lab. “It will either be dormant or metabolizing incredibly slowly.”
Europe and Russia were scheduled to launch the ExoMars ‘Rosalind Franklin’ rover to Mars in July 2020, but delays because of the coronavirus outbreak might also postpone the launch of the mission back to 2022, the initial window period announced by the European Space Agency (ESA).
Earlier this month, researchers revealed organic molecules on Mars that are allegedly ‘consistent with early life,’ called thiophenes. The molecules were found on Earth and can be collected from coal, crude oil, and white truffles, a common type of mushroom.
As per researchers, their presence is consistent with early life that existed on the Red Planet, and they believe that a biological transformation may have impacted the organic compounds’ presence on Mars.
There’s No Guarantee of Finding Life on Mars
Still they believe that this is more probably bacteria, rather than truffles.
“We identified several biological pathways for thiophenes that seem more likely than chemical ones, but we still need proof,” said astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuchm, from the Washington State University. “If you find thiophenes on Earth, then you would think they are biological, but on Mars, of course, the bar to prove that has to be quite a bit higher.”
Currently, Mars is a cold and dry world. However, three billion years ago, the planet was warmer and wetter, enabling bacteria to perform a ‘sulfate reduction process’ that concludes in thiophenes.
Researchers hope to understand more about organic molecules on the Red Planet with the European Rosalind Franklin rover. However, even if the next probe gathers more and better data than Curiosity, which is at the moment roaming on Mars, it is still not an assurance of finding alien life.
“As Carl Sagan said ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,'” Schulze-Makuch said, “I think the proof will really require that we actually send people there, and an astronaut looks through a microscope and sees a moving microbe.”