Life is in the driest desert on Earth. So it could be on Mars

When searching for new potentially habitable planetary bodies, astronomers always pay attention to one aspect - the presence or absence of water on this planetary body. They are so accustomed to. On Earth, there is water, and it is an important and integral part of life on our planet. Therefore, whether it is the bottom of the ocean in Europe (talking about Jupiter, rather than part of the world) or liquid methane lakes of Titan - we always pay attention to the presence of water even if it is not, but some of the liquid. But is it so important to really? A new study by University of Washington (USA), says that life can exist even at the lowest available amount of liquid, and hence can exist on such planets as Mars is dry.

Life is in the driest desert on Earth. So it could be on Mars

The results of this study were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They are given as an example the most arid region of the driest deserts on the planet - the South American Atacama Desert. Here decades do not have any rain. Feature Peruvian flows off the lower atmosphere and creates inversion temperature that prevents precipitation. At best, their annual rate does not exceed 50 mm. In other words, we have a perfect analogue of the surface of Mars.

How do in such circumstances life can exist?

Scientists know that even in these extremely dry conditions found microbial life, but researchers have not previously been sure of one thing: whether or not their natural habitat for the native of the microbe, or they migrated here because of weather factors. In the new study, scientists have come to the conclusion that in the desert there is indeed a constant presence of microbial life. When visiting the Atacama in 2015 after one of the very rare rainy scientists witnessed the heyday of the microbial life in the local soil. When the researchers returned here after two years, in the collected soil samples, they found the same microbial communities. The truth began to pine away, and the last to fall into a kind of hibernation waiting for a new rain.

"It's always interesting to go to a place where, according to the people, just nothing can survive and ultimately find that life is still somehow found a way to do it" - says the scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch of Washington State University.

Schulze-Makuch led this study and made it part of its work on the study of the most persistent extremophiles (organisms that can survive in the harshest environmental conditions) on Earth. Their study can help to understand how life could have spread in the universe.

"If we discard the reference to the movie" Jurassic Park ", our research indicates that if living organisms are able to survive in the most arid regions of the world, it is quite possible, life could emerge and keep its presence on the Marcia "- he added.

Of course, the results of the study did not allow a definitive conclusion that Martian life is some very secret existence. Nevertheless, they indicate the existence of such a possibility. This is explained by scientists confidence that in the past on Mars was liquid water. Martian microbes could at that time to develop, and when Mars began to dry up, they can adapt to changing conditions, leave deeper under the surface, and eventually, as well as terrestrial microbes to fall asleep. Since Mars - the planet is much cooler than the Earth, it contains a lot of ice caps. Scientists suspect that if these caps in some way it will be possible to melt, the microbial communities can once again "come to life". The next step for the Washington team of scientists will study extremely cold areas and areas with a high salt content, which in turn will pave the new parallels to Martian conditions.

"On Earth, there are only a few places where you can go in search of new forms of life that have managed to survive in an environment of severity are not inferior to Mars. Our task is to understand how these organisms are able to survive in such conditions. With this information, we can figure out where it actually costs to look for life on Mars "- summed Schulze-Makuch.