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Moon and Mars

March 30, 2017

Mars is cold and dry, and its air is a bare wisp compared to Earth’s air. That’s not an especially comfortable environment for life. But it’s not an impossible one, either. Life on Earth can survive in conditions that are pretty inhospitable. So it’s possible that microscopic organisms could live below the Martian surface, perhaps in underground pools of water.

A recent study found that some of the simplest organisms on Earth could survive Mars-like conditions. That doesn’t mean we’ll actually find life on Mars — only that we can’t rule it out.

Scientists at the University of Arkansas tested several species of methanogens — microbes that produce methane. Observations have revealed traces of methane in the Martian atmosphere. They might come from geologic processes, but they could also be produced by life.

The scientists exposed the methanogens to conditions similar to those found below the Martian surface — similar chemistry and pressure, for example. And they found that the organisms survived the exposure just fine. So now they’re planning a new round of experiments that’ll factor in the Martian cold — new tests to see if microscopic life could survive on Mars.

And Mars huddles quite close to the crescent Moon this evening. It looks like a moderately bright orange star, and stands to the lower right of the Moon as they drop down the western sky.

We’ll talk about the Moon and another orange companion tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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