US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — A scientist at the Southwestern Research Institute simulated the atmosphere of Mars to help determine that the saltwater accumulations present on the Red Planet are probably unsuitable for life – the way we know it on Earth.
The team, which also included scientists from the Space Research Association (USRA) and the University of Arkansas, helped dispel planetary defenders’ concerns about pollution of potential Martian ecosystems. These results were published this month in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Due to the low temperatures and extremely dry conditions on Mars, a drop of liquid water on its surface instantly froze, boiled or evaporated, unless the drop dissolved salt in itself. This brine will have a lower freezing point and will evaporate more slowly than pure liquid water. Salts are found all over Mars, so pickles can form there.
“Our team studied specific regions on Mars – areas where liquid water temperature and access limits could allow known terrestrial organisms to breed – to see if they could be habitable,” said Dr. SWRI Alejandro Soto, Senior Researcher and Co-author research. “We used the Martian climate model both from atmospheric data and from measurements from spacecraft. We developed a model to predict where, when, and for how long the brines will be stable on the surface and at shallow depths.”
The hyper-arid conditions of Mars require lower temperatures to achieve high relative humidity and acceptable water activity, which is a measure of how easily water can be used for hydration. The maximum expected brine temperature is -55 ° C – at the lower limit of the theoretical limit for life.
“Even the extreme life on Earth has its limits, and we found that the formation of brine from some salts can lead to the formation of liquid water on 40% of the surface of Mars, but only seasonally, for 2% of the Martian year,” Soto continued. “This rules out life as we know it.”
While pure liquid water is unstable on the surface of Mars, models have shown that stable brines can form and persist from the equator to high latitudes on the surface of Mars for several percent of the year for no more than six hours, which is a wider range than was thought earlier. However, the actual temperature is much lower than the lowest temperatures to maintain life.
“These new findings reduce the risk of exploring the Red Planet, and also contribute to future work on the potential of habitable conditions on Mars,” said Soto.
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