Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Microbial Life on Mars: Could Saltwater Make It Possible?

22.08.2011
How common are droplets of saltwater on Mars? Could microbial life survive and reproduce in them? A new million-dollar NASA project led by the University of Michigan aims to answer those questions.

This project begins three years after beads of liquid brine were first photographed on one of the Mars Phoenix lander's legs.

"On Earth, everywhere there's liquid water, there is microbial life," said Nilton Renno, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences who is the principal investigator. Researchers from NASA, the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Georgia and the Centro de Astrobiologia in Madrid are also involved.

Scientists in the United States will create Mars conditions in lab chambers and study how and when brines form. These shoe-box-sized modules will have wispy carbon dioxide and water vapor atmospheres with 99 percent lower air pressure than the average pressure on Earth at sea level. Temperatures will range from -100 to -80 Fahrenheit and will be adjusted to mimic daily and seasonal cycles. Instruments will alert the researchers to the formation of brine pockets, which could potentially be habitable by certain forms of microbial life.

Their colleagues overseas will seed similar chambers with salt-loving "extremophile" microorganisms from deep in Antarctic lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. The will observe whether these organisms survive, grow and reproduce in brines just below the surface of the soil. All known forms of life need liquid water to live. But microbes don't need much. A droplet or a thin film could suffice, researchers say.

"If we find microbes that can survive and replicate in brines at Mars conditions, we would have demonstrated that microbes could exist on Mars today," Renno said.

With his colleagues on the Mars Phoenix mission in 2008, Renno theorized that globules that moved and coalesced on the spacecraft's leg were liquid saltwater. Independent physical and thermodynamic evidence as well as follow-up experiments have confirmed that the drops were liquid and not frost or ice. The Phoenix photos are believed to be the first pictures of liquid water outside the Earth.

The median temperature at the Phoenix landing site was -70 degrees Fahrenheit during the mission---too cold for liquid fresh water. But "perchlorate" salts found in the site's soils could lower water's freezing point dramatically, so that it could exist as liquid brine. The salts are also capable of absorbing water from the atmosphere in a process called deliquescence.

Also contributing to this new project at U-M are Bruce Block, a senior engineer in the Space Physics Research Lab and Gregory Dick, an assistant professor in the Department of Geological Sciences.

For more information:

Video: Nilton Renno describes this project: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Q8yEt1Sugg

Nilton Renno: http://aoss.engin.umich.edu/people/nrenno

Michigan Engineer magazine: Revisiting Mars---The search for life and liquid water on the planet next door: http://www.engin.umich.edu/newscenter/pubs/engineer/engineerfeatures/wateronmars

Nicole Casal Moore | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Writing and deleting magnets with lasers
19.04.2018 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf

nachricht Ultrafast electron oscillation and dephasing monitored by attosecond light source
19.04.2018 | Yokohama National University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

Im Focus: The Future of Ultrafast Solid-State Physics

In an article that appears in the journal “Review of Modern Physics”, researchers at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (LAP) assess the current state of the field of ultrafast physics and consider its implications for future technologies.

Physicists can now control light in both time and space with hitherto unimagined precision. This is particularly true for the ability to generate ultrashort...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Diamond-like carbon is formed differently to what was believed -- machine learning enables development of new model

19.04.2018 | Materials Sciences

Electromagnetic wizardry: Wireless power transfer enhanced by backward signal

19.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Ultrafast electron oscillation and dephasing monitored by attosecond light source

19.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>