New science missions and results are putting the quest for life signs closer than ever to home.
A team of researchers at the Center for Astrophysics I Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) and the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) might know how to determine whether life is (was) deep underneath Mars and other rocky bodies in the Universe. Here is what you need to know.
The Hunt for Life Continues
The team focused on the idea that the absence of surface water doesn’t prevent the potential for life elsewhere on a rocky object, like underneath in the subsurface biosphere. Researchers investigated whether conditions amenable to life could be underneath Mars or Moon’s surface at some point in their existence. They also discussed how future missions could go and hunt for traces of past subsurface life.
The first challenge is determining the potential for the existence of water where there seems to be none. Mars, for example, doesn’t have now any longstanding bodies of water on its ground, but scientists know that it possesses subsurfaces lakes.
The team further examined the “thickness” of the subsurface area, right where the water and life might be, of the nearby rocky bodies. Researchers believe that the high pressures therein couldn’t rule out life altogether.
“[…] both the Moon and Mars lack an atmosphere that would allow liquid water to exist on their surfaces, but the warmer and pressurized regions under the surface could allow the chemistry of life in liquid water,” explained Dr. Avi Loeb, a Cfa astronomer part of the team.
In terms of hunting for life underneath Mars or Moon, the researchers said it wouldn’t easy. It will require search machinery and criteria not yet in use on either neighboring planet. However, all the challenges don’t mean that discovering life in the subsurface biosphere of a rocky planet is a dead end, even in the near future.
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