Feeds

Martians lived underground, say Oz boffins

Water and energy available but not on the surface

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

A group of Australian scientists have created a “whole of planet” model that suggests large parts of Mars are capable of supporting life – as long as it doesn’t mind living underground.

Instead of the piecemeal approach followed by most astrobiologists – which, it must be said, is fair enough since the various probes sent to the Red Planet have only sampled tiny areas – the Australian National University team led by Dr Charlie Lineweaver sought to compare what’s known about the whole planet to Earth’s environment.

They focused on two characteristics, comparing the temperature and pressure conditions here to those likely to exist on Mars. Their estimate comes up with a surprise: while only one percent of Earth’s entire volume falls under the heading “habitable”, Mars beats us at three percent.

"What we tried to do, simply, was take almost all of the information we could and put it together and say 'is the big picture consistent with there being life on Mars?'," the astrobiologist told AFP.

Unlike Earth, most of Mars’ habitable zone is underground, Lineweaver says. That’s because water on the surface evaporates due to the low atmospheric pressure (in spite of the rather chilly surface temperatures of around -63 degrees Celsius).

It extends quite a distance underground, in fact: the Martian "pressure-temperature phase space" (that is, the combination of pressure and temperature suitable for liquid water) extends to around 310 kilometers underground, the paper states.

"If there is a hot deep biosphere on Mars, it could extend 7 times deeper than the ~5km depth of the hot deep terrestrial biosphere in the crust inhabited by hypothermophilic chemolithotrophs," the paper continues.

The model found that underground, the extra pressure would allow water to exist as a liquid, and heat from the interior would create conditions "that could be habitable by Earth-like standards by Earth-like microbes".

The paper, An Extensive Phase Space for the Potential Martian Biosphere by Lineweaver, along with Eriita Jones and Johnathan Clarke, is published in Astrobiology. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.