The results of the research, which was done by Yohey Suzuki and colleagues from the University of Tokyo and published in Communication Biology, significantly increase the chances of life on the Red Planet, the magazine claims. Plans are currently underway for a collaboration with NASA’s Johnson Space Center that would see rocks on Mars examined for similar processes.
When active underwater volcanoes erupt, they discharge huge amounts of lava, which cools to become rocks with small cracks, often measuring less than a millimeter.
Over the millennia, these are filled with clay minerals – and a large number of small, rapidly multiplying bacteria, with about 10 billion bacterial cells per cubic centimeter.
The results have major consequences for life on other planets, not least because the Earth̵
The magazine’s first author, Yohey Suzuki from the University of Tokyo, said: “I almost expect to find life on Mars.
“If not, it must be that life relies on some other process that Mars does not have, like plate tectonics.”
Prof Suzuki, who helped collect the samples, is estimated to be 13.5 million, 33.5 million and 104 million years old, as part of the ongoing Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) at the end of 2010 and has studied them since its.
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“Honestly, it was a very unexpected discovery.
“I was very lucky, because I almost gave up.
“Minerals are like a fingerprint for the conditions that existed when the clay was formed.
“Neutral to slightly alkaline levels, low temperature, moderate salinity, iron-rich environment, basalt rock – all these conditions are shared between the deep sea and the Martian surface.
“This discovery of life where no one expected it in solid rock beneath the seabed can change the game for the search for life in space.”
Prof Suzuki’s team is working with NASA to design a method to investigate rocks collected from the Martian surface of the rover.
The ideas include keeping the samples locked in a titanium tube and using a CT (computed tomography) scanner, a type of 3D x-ray, to look for life in clay mineral-filled cracks.
The issue of life on Mars is one of the hottest topics in the entire science field, with several missions planned for the Red Planet at the beginning of this decade.
Among them is the ExoMars mission, with UK-based rover, Rosalind Franklin, a joint program involving the European Space Agency and the Russian Roscosmos State Corporation – although its launch date has been postponed from July 2020 to 2022, partly the response to the evolving koronavirusutbrottet.