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Hardy bacteria similar to that found in the most inhospitable places on Earth may be thriving on the red planet.
Experiments that mimicked conditions on Mars discovered that unusual salts in liquid water below the planet's frozen surface prevent liquid water from freezing.
Microbes - Arctic - Glaciers - Bottom - Oceans
Microbes similar to those found within Arctic glaciers, at the bottom of the deepest oceans and even underneath volcanoes, may be able to flourish in this environment.
A research team led by the University of Leeds analysed what they refer to as 'mimetic Martin water', to better understand how liquid water could exist on the Martian surface.
Surface - Temperatures - Mars - Equator - C
Surface temperatures on Mars may reach a high of about 20°C (68°F) at the equator and as low as -153° C (-243°F) at the pole.
With an average surface temperature of -55°C (-67°F), water itself cannot exist as a liquid on Mars.
Soil - Samples - Phoenix - Lander - Calcium
Martian soil samples gathered by the Phoenix Lander in 2009 found calcium and powerful oxidants, including magnesium perchlorate, which can survive these low temperatures.
This fuelled speculation that perchlorate brine flows might be the cause of river-like channels and other weathering observed on the planet's surface.
Structure - Water - Magnesium - Perchlorate - Solution
By studying the structure of water in a magnesium perchlorate solution, the research team found the salts have an effect equivalent to pressurising pure water to two billion pascals or more, which would prevent it from freezing.
Dr Lorna Dougan, from the university's school of physics and astronomy said: 'The discovery of significant amounts of different perchlorate salts in Martian soil gives new insight into the Martian "riverbeds."
Structure - Water - Pressure - Life - Piezophiles
'If the structure of Martian water is highly pressurised, perhaps we might expect to find organisms adapted to high pressure life similar to piezophiles on Earth, such as deep sea...
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