Featured Image: Top: Valley of the Moon, Atacama Desert, San Pedro, Chile, Earth. Image courtesy Alf Igel. Bottom: Jezero Crater, Syrtis Major Quadrangle, Mars. Image courtesy Kevin M. Gill.
Paper: Gradient studies reveal the true drivers of extreme life in the Atacama Desert
Authors: D. Boy, R. Moeller, L. Sauheitl, F. Schaarschmidt, S. Rapp, L. van den Brink, S. Gschwendtner, R. Godoy Borquez, Francisco J. Matus, M. A. Horn, G. Guggenberger, J. Boy
Space. The final frontier. Or is it? Boy and colleagues are not presenting the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, rather the clever investigation of scientists on Earth. Their continuing mission: to understand the development of life in extreme environments, and how certain places on Earth geologically represent Mars and other planet analogues. While Boy and colleagues are limited on intergalactic travel, their recent work clearly the defines expectations, inferences, and consequences of using a site on Earth as a replacement for another planet. They conclude that the nearby climate and environment surrounding these analogue locations may lead to inaccurate comparisons, by altering soil moisture and salt content, for example.
Continue reading “To understand Mars, scientists study Earth – but is this enough?”
Paper: Organic synthesis associated with serpentinization and carbonation on early Mars
Authors: Steele A, Benning LG, Wirth R, Schreiber A, Araki T, McCubbin FM, Fries MD, Nittler LR, Wang J, Hallis LJ, and Conrad PG.
The discovery of organic carbon in Martian meteorites has fueled scientific debates for more than four decades. Could these molecules be the chemical residue of Martian life?
Continue reading “Martian Past Revealed by New Analysis of 4 Billion-year-old Meteorite”
Featuring image: northern rim of Gale Crater viewed by Curiosity. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, public domain (CC0)
Paper: Day-night differences in Mars methane suggest nighttime containment at Gale crater
Authors: C. R. Webster, P. R. Mahaffy, J. Pla-Garcia, S. C. R. Rafkin, J. E. Moores, S. K. Atreya, G. J. Flesch, C. A. Malespin, S. M. Teinturier, H. Kalucha, C. L. Smith, D. Viúdez-Moreiras and A. R. Vasavada
Methane is a gas often connected to life on Earth. NASA’s Mars rover reported the detection of methane, but discrepancies with other missions puzzled researchers. Is there methane on Mars or not? A new study tries to answer this question in a windy way.
Methane is a possible biosignature for extraterrestrial life and therefore, one of the goals of the Mars rover Curiosity was to search for methane. Curiosity was able to detect varying amounts of this gas over the years, but the existence of methane in the Martian atmosphere could not be confirmed by analysis from satellites. Now, Christopher Webster and his group were able to explain the variations as well as the discrepancy between ground-based and satellite analysis by developing a detailed model of the wind systems at Gale crater.
Continue reading “Mysterious methane on Mars”
Article: Fatty Acid Preservation in Modern and Relict Hot-Spring Deposits in Iceland, with Implications for Organics Detection on Mars
Authors: Williams, Amy J., Kathleen L. Craft, Maëva Millan, Sarah Stewart Johnson, Christine A. Knudson, Marisol Juarez Rivera, Amy C. McAdam, Dominique Tobler, and John Roma Skok.
Continue reading “The Search for Life on Mars Begins on Earth”
The quest to find signs of life on Mars is one of the greatest scientific challenges of our time. For some researchers, the quest is a chemical one. A search for the biomolecular remains of life that may have lived when Mars was warmer and wetter billions of years ago. However, finding and recognizing molecular fossils is no easy task, even for a rover as sophisticated as Curiosity. Now, new research from Dr. Amy Williams and her colleagues provides fresh insights into where Mars rovers should look for these fossils, what the signatures may look like, and a simple procedure for how to detect them.
Featured image: A person exploring the rocks of a cave on Earth, Pixabay.
Paper: Earth-like Habitable Environments in the Subsurface of Mars
Authors: J.D. Tarnas, J.F. Mustard, B. Sherwood Lollar, V. Stamenković, K.M. Cannon, J.-P. Lorand, T.C. Onstott, J.R. Michalski, O. Warr.
Mars exploration has been looking “up” recently: the Ingenuity helicopter performed the first powered flight on another planet, and veteran rover Curiosity gave us stunning images from the top of Mount Mercou. But if we want to look for life on Mars, it might be time for us to look down instead. New research suggests that life on present day Mars could be sustained by chemical energy produced through the interaction between water and rocks deep underground, like it is here on Earth.
Continue reading “The only way is… down? Groundwater on Mars could support microbial life in the present day”
Featured Image: Artist’s impression of ESA’s ExoMars rover ‘Rosalind Franklin’ on the surface of Mars. Credit: ESA.
Paper: Oxia Planum: The Landing Site for the ExoMars “Rosalind Franklin” Rover Mission: Geological Context and Prelanding Interpretation
Authors: Quantin-Nataf et al., 2021
We are entering a new dawn of Mars exploration: Perseverance rover touched down on Mars earlier this year, which marks the start of what will be a decade-long effort to return samples from Mars. In 2022 the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch the ExoMars rover, which will team up with the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) to find evidence of past or present life on Mars.
Continue reading “Oxia Planum: ExoMars 2022 Landing Site”
Paper: Amino acid abundances and compositions in iron and stony‐iron meteorites
Authors: Jamie E. Elsila, Natasha M. Johnson, Daniel P. Glavin, José C. Aponte, Jason P. Dworkin
All known life on Earth relies on amino acids. Many important biomolecules like proteins are made up of them. Scientists were surprised when they found these molecules, which are so strongly connected to living systems, in meteorites. How amino acids form in non-biological systems is still not entirely understood and is closely tied to the question of how life emerged on our young planet.
Continue reading “Are we star dust?”
Featured image: A mud volcano and mud flows in Azerbaijan. Credit: CAS/ Petr Brož/ CC BY-SA 4.0.
Paper: Mud flow levitation on Mars: Insights from laboratory simulations
Authors: Petr Brož et al.,
The Mariner spacecraft’s first images of Mars in the 1960s and 70s showed large volcanoes and flow features, most likely lava or mud. These features were largely interpreted to be lava flows because they look similar to those seen on Earth. However, a 2020 study by Brož et al., shows that mud flows may be more prevalent on Mars than first hypothesized.
Continue reading “It’s LeviOsa, Not LevioSA: The Science Of Levitating Mud On Mars”
Featured Image: Iceberg in North Star Bay, Greenland by Jeremy Harbeck – NASA, Public Domain
Paper: Subsurface In Situ Detection of Microbes and Diverse
Organic Matter Hotspots in the Greenland Ice Sheet
Authors: Michael J. Malaska, Rohit Bhartia, Kenneth S. Manatt, John C. Priscu, William J. Abbey, Boleslaw Mellerowicz, Joseph Palmowski, Gale L. Paulsen, Kris Zacny, Evan J. Eshelman, and Juliana D’Andrilli
Like the rings of a tree, core samples extracted from glacial ice preserve a unique record of past events. But instead of recording seasonal growth, the ancient ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland have preserved the conditions of long gone climates and ecosystems. Some sheets have continuously accumulated so much snowfall over the past series of millennia that in some places the ice can reach depths that are miles deep. Analyzing this immense glacial record can inform us about not just the global patterns of climate change, but also the evolution of microbial life on Earth, and maybe even the icy worlds of our Solar System.
Continue reading “New instrument maps and preserves frozen habitats on Earth- and potentially icy worlds”
Featured image: The south pole of Mars as seen by the HRSC Camera onboard the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission. Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin.
Paper: Multiple subglacial water bodies below the south pole of Mars unveiled by new MARSIS data.
Authors: Sebastian Emanuel Lauro, Elena Pettinelli, Graziella Caprarelli, Luca Guallini, Angelo Pio Rossi, Elisabetta Mattei, Barbara Cosciotti, Andrea Cicchetti, Francesco Soldovieri, Marco Cartacci, Federico Di Paolo, Raffaella Noschese and Roberto Orosei.
“Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink”- or at least that might be the case beneath the south pole of Mars. In 2018, a team of scientists reported a potential subsurface lake of liquid water 1.5 km beneath the Martian south polar cap. Now, using more observations as well as new analysis methods previously used for ice sheets on Earth, the same team presents new evidence for a large subsurface lake as well as three other lakes in the same area. This raises further questions about how such lakes could be kept liquid in the cold environment of Mars, and whether they could provide a habitable environment for astrobiology.
Continue reading “Water, but not a drop to drink: multiple salty lakes beneath the south pole of Mars?”