(ORDO NEWS) — A new study has found that ancient microbial life on Mars may have destroyed the planet’s atmosphere due to climate change, eventually leading to its extinction.
The new theory comes from a climate modeling study that simulated hydrogen-consuming, methane-producing microbes that lived on Mars about 3.7 billion years ago.
At that time, atmospheric conditions were similar to those that existed on ancient Earth during the same period.
But instead of creating an environment that would help them thrive and develop, as they did on Earth, Martian microbes may have doomed themselves to where they were just starting out.
The model suggests that the reason why life flourished on Earth and was doomed on Mars is due to the gas composition of the two planets and their relative distance from the Sun.
Farther away from our star than Earth, Mars depended more on a powerful haze of heat-trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and hydrogen to maintain a reasonable temperature for life.
So, as ancient Martian microbes fed on hydrogen (a greenhouse gas) and produced methane (also a greenhouse gas on Earth, but less powerful than hydrogen), they also slowly ate away their planet’s containment, eventually making Mars so cold. that it could no longer support the conditions for complex life to exist
As the temperature on the surface of Mars fell from the acceptable range of 10-20 to minus – 57 ° C, microbes penetrated deeper and deeper into the warmer crust of the planet. In just a few hundred million years, they “ate” their way to a depth of more than 1 km.
To find evidence for their theory, the researchers want to find out if any of these ancient microbes survived. Traces of methane have been detected by satellites in Mars’ rarefied atmosphere, as well as “alien burps” detected by NASA’s Curiosity rover, which could indicate that microbes still exist on the Red Planet – they’re just very, very deep.
Scientists believe their findings suggest that life may not be inherently self-sustaining in every favorable environment in which it appears, and that it can easily destroy itself by inadvertently destroying the foundations of its own existence.
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