Deep underground, radioactive elements break down water molecules to produce components that can provide fuel for underground life. This process is called radiolysis, and bacteria persist in isolated, water-filled cracks and rock pores on the earth for millions to billions of years.Now published a study exist Astrobiology It is believed that radiolysis may provide power for microbial life underground on Mars.
Sandstorms, cosmic rays and solar wind ravaged the surface of this red planet. But underground, some lives may find refuge. “The most habitable environment on Mars is underground,” said Jesse Tanas, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and lead author of the new study. Examining the Martian underground can help scientists understand whether life can survive there—and the best underground samples today are Martian meteorites that crashed on Earth.
Tanas and his colleagues assessed the particle size, mineral composition, and radioactive element abundance of Martian meteorites, and used satellite and rover data to estimate the porosity of the Martian crust. They input these properties into a computer model that simulates radiolysis to understand how efficiently the process produces hydrogen and sulfate: the chemical components that can power the metabolism of underground bacteria. Researchers report that if water is present, radiolysis under Mars could sustain microbial communities for billions of years—perhaps still today.
Scientists have previously studied the radiolysis of Mars, but this marks the first use of Martian rocks to quantify estimates of the planet’s subterranean habitability. Tanas and his colleagues also assessed the potential abundance of life underground on Mars and found that as many as one million microorganisms may exist in a kilogram of rock. (Geobiologists have found similar densities under the earth.)
The most habitable meteorite sample analyzed appears to be made from a type of rock called weathered breccia. “These are thought to come from the southern highlands of Mars, which is the oldest terrain on Mars,” Tanas said.
Lujendra Ojha, a planetary scientist at Rutgers University who was not involved in the study, said that as the study describes, underground life needs water-and whether there is groundwater on Earth is still unknown. Determining whether the Martian crust contains water will be the next important task, but this investigation will help drive this search, Ojha said: “Where there is groundwater, there is life.”