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Friday, June 25, 2010

Life on Mars not impossible

Could life exist on Mars? Now that researchers have discovered bacteria in regions of Earth that are more inhospitable than Mars, that possibility becomes more likely.

The Lost Hammer Spring on Axel Heiberg Island, in the extreme north of Canada, is about as inhospitable as you can get. The water in the spring is so salty that it doesn’t freeze even at the -50ºC often experienced in the area. While the water contains no detectable oxygen, it does have large bubbles of methane emanating from it. Lyle Whyte and his colleagues from McGill University, the University of Toronto and the SETI institute, discovered some unique methane-eating anaerobic bacteria in the salty frigid waters.

While Mars does not resemble Earth in great detail, it does have both methane and frozen water. In places, the temperature even reaches a balmy -10ºC or higher. So who knows? Exobiologists are continuing to search for life there.