Planet Mars : the salt water could support life

Planète Mars : de l'eau salée pourrait favoriser la vie

Under the surface of Mars there may be salt water.

Under the surface of Mars, there could be of very salty water, which may contain enough oxygen to allow the microbes to breathe

Of very salty water located beneath the surface of Mars might, if it exists, contain enough oxygen for breathing, to microbes, “and even simple animals like sponges,” say Monday researchers.

Their study, published in Nature Geoscience, is based on calculations and models. “It revolutionizes completely our understanding of the possibility of life, past or present, on Mars” and the role of the oxygen molecule (02) in this process, ensures Vlada Stamenkovic, a researcher at the laboratory-Nasa JPL, and lead author of the study.

Aerobic Respiration

Because of the extreme rarity of the oxygen (about 1,45%) in the martian atmosphere, scientists have tended to consider that the red planet was not capable of producing environments with enough oxygen to allow breathing aerobic, the study notes. This type of respiration, which requires oxygen as fuel, is the one that is by far the most widespread on Earth through photosynthesis, which allows plants to release oxygen into the atmosphere
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There is also another form of cellular respiration, called anaerobic, used mainly on our planet by prokaryotes (in which the cell is without nucleus) living in environments devoid of oxygen. Until now, researchers had focused their efforts on a possible life anaerobic on March.

Brines on Mars

But “there, we found life on Mars – if she ever existed or still exists – had enough oxygen to breathe”, leading Vlada Stamenkovic. The team of researchers from Caltech and the JPL is interested in the opportunities offered by the possible presence of brines on Mars, as the promise of recent research. It is a mixture of water and salts in high concentration may lower the freezing point of water (so that it remains liquid at colder temperatures).

Check with instruments

The researchers proceeded in several steps. They first calculated how much oxygen could dissolve in the salt water under the conditions of pressure, temperature and chemistry of these brines on mars. They then used a climate model predicting the pressure and temperature in different regions on mars, to map the solubility of oxygen in salt water in different parts of the red planet.

Finally they have studied the climate change on Mars during the past 20 million years. “We show where are the best places to find the oxygen dissolved on the planet today” and how it has evolved with the times, noted by the researcher at JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) in Pasadena (California). “Some regions even allow a solubility of oxygen sufficient to allow simple animals like sponges to breathe”, he says.

The researchers insist on the fact that their “results do not imply that there is a life on Mars” but only that “the habitability of the planet is modified by the potential presence of oxygen dissolved”. They would not be surprised that their study debate.

The team that worked on the basis of models and calculations, it remains to confirm or not their thesis through the exploration of mars. In the first place, it would be necessary to send on March of instruments to find this brine on mars and the water just under the surface, indicates Vlada Stamenkovic, adding that the JPL is in the process of developing this type of material.

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