Life on early Mars could have become extinct. It’s not as funny as it sounds; This is what happens in the world.
But life evolved and persisted on Earth, while it did not on Mars.
Evidence shows that Mars was once hot and humid and had an atmosphere. In the oldest Noachian Period, between 3.7 billion and 4.1 billion years ago, Mars also had surface water. If this is true, Mars may have been habitable (although it does not necessarily mean inhabited).
A new study shows that early Mars may have been hospitable to a type of organism that thrives in extreme environments here on Earth. Methanogens live in places like hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, where they convert chemical energy from their environment and release methane as a waste product. The study shows that methanogens thrived underground on Mars.
The study is “Early Mars habitability and global cooling based on H2 methanogens”. It’s published in Nature Astronomyand the older Authors King Ferrière and Boris Sauterey. Ferrière is a professor in the University of Arizona’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Sauterey is a former postdoctoral fellow in Ferrière’s group who is now at the Sorbonne.
“Our study shows that underground, early Mars was probably habitable for methanogenic microbes,” Ferrière said in a press release. But the authors do not say clearly that life on the planet definitely existed.
The paper says the microbes thrived in porous, stony rock that protected them from UV rays and cosmic rays. The subterranean environment also provided a diffuse and temperate atmosphere that allowed methanogens to persist.
The researchers noted that the hydrogenotrophic methanogen, which in H . they take2 and CO*2 and produce methane as waste. This type of methanogenesis was one of the first metabolisms to develop on Earth. However, its “…viability on early Mars has never been quantified,” the paper says.
The critical difference between Mars and ancient Earth is about this research. On Earth, most of the hydrogen is bound to water molecules, and by itself there is very little of it. But on Mars it was abundant in the planet’s atmosphere.
A consequence of that could have been the energy supply of the ancient methanogens as work to thrive. The same hydrogen would have helped trap heat in the Martian atmosphere, keeping the planet habitable.
“We think that Mars has been colder than Earth for some time, but not nearly as cold as it is now, with average temperatures most likely hovering above the freezing point of water,” Ferrière said.
“While Mars is currently described as a cube of ice covered in dust, early on we imagine Mars as a rocky planet with a porous, liquid-soaked crust that likely formed lakes and rivers, perhaps even seas or oceans.”
On land, water is either salt water or fresh water. But on Mars, that distinction was not necessary. But all the water was clear, according to spectroscopic measurements of Martian surface rocks.
The research team used models of the Martian climate, crust and atmosphere to estimate methanogens on ancient Mars. They also provided an example of an ecological community of terrestrial microbes that metabolize hydrogen and carbon.
By working with these ecosystem models, the researchers were able to predict whether methanogen populations could survive. But they advanced further. they could predict what these nations had in their environment.
“When we came up with the model, it was meant to work on the Martian crust – figuratively speaking,” said the paper’s first author Boris Sauterey.
“This allows us to estimate how likely it is that Mars has a subsurface biosphere. And if such a biosphere existed, how would it change the chemistry of the Martian crust and how would these processes in the crust affect the chemical composition of the atmosphere.”
“The goal was to mix a sample of the Martian crust with rock and salty water, diffuse gases from the atmosphere into the ground, and see if methanogens could live with it,” said Ferrière. “And the answer is, generally speaking, these microbes could have brought life into the planet’s crust.”
The question is, how deep do you want to find it? It is about balance according to the researchers.
With an atmosphere abundant in hydrogen and carbon that organisms could use for energy, the surface of Mars was still cold. Not as glacial as it is today, but much colder than modern Earth.
Microorganisms thrive in warmer temperatures below ground, but the deeper you go, the less hydrogen and carbon are available.
“The proposal is that even on early Mars, it was still very cold on the surface, so microbes had to go deeper into the crust to find habitable temperatures,” said Sauterey.
“The question is how deep does biology need to be to find the right compromise between temperature and the availability of molecules from the atmosphere that are necessary to grow? We found that the microbial communities in our models were most successful in the last few hundred meters.”
They crawled into the upper crust for a long time. But when the microbial communities persisted, taking in hydrogen from carbon and dissolving methane, they changed the environment.
The team modeled all the processes above and below ground and how they influenced each other. The results predicted climate change and how Mars’ atmosphere changed.
The team says that over time, methanogens have instituted global climatic cooling as they have changed the chemical makeup of the atmosphere. Water in the crust cools at greater and deeper depths as the planet cools.
That cooling eventually made the surface of Mars uninhabitable. As the planet cooled, organisms would be driven further underground, by the cold.
But the porosity in the regolith became plugged with ice, reaching the atmosphere at depths, starving methanogens of energy.
“According to our results, the Martian atmosphere would have been changed very rapidly by biological activity, within a few decades or hundreds of thousands of years,” Sauterey said. “By removing the microbes from the atmosphere, the disturbance will cool the planet’s climate.”
The result? Extinction
“The problem these microbes would have faced then is that the atmosphere on Mars has basically disappeared, it’s completely thinned out, so their source of energy would disappear, and they would have to find an alternative source of energy,” said Sauterey.
“Moreover, the temperature would have dropped significantly, and they would have had to go much deeper into the crust. At the moment it is very difficult to say how long Mars would have remained habitable.”
Researchers have also identified places on the Martian surface where future missions have the best chance of finding evidence of ancient life on the planet.
“The closest populations would have been the most fertile, therefore the highest probability of biomarkers being preserved in detectable quantities,” the authors write in their paper. “The first few meters of the Martian crust are also the most accessible for the exploration technology that is currently being tackled by the Mars rovers.”
According to the researchers, Hellas Planitia is the best place to look for evidence of this early underground life because it remained ice-free. Unfortunately, that area is home to strong dust storms and suitable for pirate exploration. According to the authors, if human explorers ever visit Mars, Hellas Planitia is the ideal site for exploration.
Life on ancient Mars is no longer a revolutionary idea, nor has it been one for a long time. The more interesting part of this research could be how his early life changed his environment. This is what happened on Earth and led to the development of more complex life after the Great Oxygenation Event (GOE).
The first earth was also inhabited by simple life forms. But the earth was different; organisms have developed a new way to harness energy. There was no oxygen in Earth’s early atmosphere, and Earth’s first inhabitants thrived in its absence. Then along came the cyanobacteria, which use photosynthesis to produce energy and oxygen as a by-product.
Cyanobacteria liked pain, and the first landholders did not. Cyanobacteria grew in beds that created a region of oxygenated water around them in which they thrived.
Eventually, cyanobacteria oxygenated the oceans and atmosphere until Earth became toxic to other life. Methanogens and the rest of Earth’s early life cannot handle oxygen.
Learned men do not quite call the death of all these organisms primitive extinction, but the word comes nearer. Some ancient microbes or their descendants survive on today’s Earth, driven into oxygen-poor environments.
But it is said that the country On Mars, there was no evolutionary leap into photosynthesis or anything else that led to a new way to obtain energy. Eventually Mars cooled and froze and lost its atmosphere. Is Mars dead now?
It is possible that Martian life takes refuge in isolated places in the planet’s crust.
A 2021 study used modeling to show that there is a source of self-replenishing hydrogen in the Martian crust. The study shows that radioactive elements in the crust can break up water molecules through radiolysis when hydrogen is available to methanogens. Radiolysis has allowed isolated bacteria communities to persist in water-filled cracks and pores in the Earth’s crust for millions, perhaps even billions, of years.
The Deep Carbon Observatory found that life buried in the Earth’s crust contains up to 400 times the mass of carbon of all humans. The DCO also found that the abyss of the subsurface biosphere is almost twice the volume of the world’s oceans.
Could there still be life in the crust of Mars, in the hydrogen created by radiolysis? There are undisputed exposures of methane in the atmosphere that have yet to be explained.
Many scientists believe that the subsurface of Mars is the most likely place in the Solar System to host life, other than Earth, of course. (Sorry, Europe.) Maybe it does, and maybe one day we’ll find out.
This article was first published by Universe Today. Read the original article.
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