Report: Microbial Life On Ancient Mars

On Monday, French scientists reported that ancient Mars might have had an environment conducive to housing an underground world with microscopic organisms.

Report: Microbial Life On Ancient Mars
Photo by Planet Volumes / Unsplash

Facts

  • On Monday, French scientists reported that ancient Mars might have had an environment conducive to housing an underground world with microscopic organisms. The scientists concluded that if they existed, the organisms would have been responsible for their own demise by altering the atmosphere and triggering a Martian Ice Age.
  • US and French scientists collaborated using climate models to explore the habitability of Mars during the Noachian, a geological period on the red planet 4.1B - 3.7B years ago when the planet may have had water on its surface.
  • Boris Sauterey, the study's leader and a post-doctoral researcher at Sorbonne University, said their findings show a bleak view of life in the cosmos when even the simplest of life forms "might actually commonly cause its own demise."
  • The research showed that the organisms, hydrogenotrophs, would have lived in the soil, expelling methane, a greenhouse gas, and consuming hydrogen — both of which have an environmental warming effect. In less than 500k years, the microbes could have altered the planet's climate, causing a cooling effect that could have pushed temperatures down from around 60F to below -10F.
  • Kaveh Pahlevan of the SETI Institute, who recently conducted a separate study of Mars, said that future models of the planet's climate would need to consider this new data. This study clarifies that "if life were present on Mars...they would have had a major influence on the prevailing climate."
  • Sauterey will now turn to focus his research on if microbial life still exists on Mars. The study suggests that the best place to find traces of life is either in the unexplored Hellas Planitia or the Jezero Crater on the northwestern edge of Isidis Planitia, where NASA's Perseverance rover is currently collecting rocks.

Sources: PBS NewsHour and Independent.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by Vice.Despite the bleak finding that life itself could be behind its own destruction, this research is exciting and offers a promising breakthrough in the study of life outside of earth: Not only does this new information suggest that habitable environments exist within our solar system, but also into the broader galaxy and universe. This will pave the way for future missions that may change our understanding of space.
  • Narrative B, as provided by USA Today.While the idea of life on Mars is fascinating, we must be careful when researching and exploring. Sending expeditions and rovers to Mars could have unintended consequences. History has proven that every time humans explore new places, they take diseases with them and bring new diseases back.