Finding Mars on Earth — and discovering what life on the red planet could’ve looked like in the process

Finding Mars on Earth — and discovering what life on the red planet could’ve looked like in the process
Sarah Black, who not too way back achieved her PhD in Geological Sciences at CU Boulder, collects water samples from Laguna Caliente.

Mars has flip right into a cultural fascination. Scientists are trying to get there, private firms are trying to make a home there and beermakers are trying to drink there. Nowhere is rather like the purple planet. Properly, perhaps not nowhere.

CU Boulder Affiliate Professor Brian Hynek has made it his job to evaluation environments on Earth that mimic that of historic Mars, a time when unstable and mineral-rich swimming swimming pools of water lined the planet.

The analogs aren’t wonderful, though,and they also solely amount inside the dozens. Nonetheless the search has led him all through the nation from Nicaragua to Iceland, researching extraordinarily scorching and acidic water near volcanoes.

That’s why he was in Costa Rice in November 2013. He dashed to and from Laguna Caliente, which is nestled inside the Poás Volcano. The lake is chaotic, its temperature altering shortly from near-ambient to just about boiling whereas its water is 10 million events additional acidic than faucet water. Hynek solely spent as long as he wished to grab samples, guaranteeing to stay away from the lake’s frequent geyser-like eruptions.

“We’re type of on the fringes even of what Earth life can tolerate,” Hynek talked about of the lake.

However in some way, there nonetheless is life. Hynek scanned water samples for DNA and located microbes residing inside the toxic volcanic lake, publishing his findings in April in Astrobiology. It’s not merely that Hynek found microbes, though. He found one sort of microbe — only one.

Most of those monocultures are unusual on earth. Off the best of his head, Hynek may solely contemplate one completely different occasion: micro organism found inside a South African gold mine three to 4 kilometers down.

Furthermore, the microbes he found didn’t match any which have already been cataloged. If Hynek is able to nail down what exactly this microbe is, he’ll be able to title it. So far, he’s conscious of it belongs to the Acidiphilium genus, which is a gaggle of microbes which have beforehand been seen in toxic drainage from coal mines and completely different harsh locations.

Hynek’s discovery may stage to what life on Mars — if it existed — would have been like. It probably wouldn’t be broad biodiversity, he talked about. Life on Mars would probably have survived by processing vitality from iron- and sulfur-bearing minerals, which is how the lake’s bacterium does it.

Hynek has gone to the volcano twice now and plans to go as soon as extra this summer season season. Nonetheless Laguna Caliente obtained’t be there. The volcano erupted seven days after he ultimate left on the end of March 2017 and has been going off ever since, destroying the lake inside the course of.

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