A new study suggests ancient Mars life may have existed before climate change destroyed its home planet. The new concept comes from a climate modeling study published in Nature Astronomy, which used computer simulations to imagine bacteria that thrived on Mars billions of years ago, when the red planet had an atmosphere comparable to Earth’s today . Some scientists believe tiny Martian life accidentally self-destructed by altering Martian atmosphere.
Scientists have determined that the different gas compositions of the two planets and their distance from the Sun are responsible for the success of life on Earth but the extinction of life on Mars.
Life on Mars was much more reliant on greenhouse gases trapped in its atmosphere to maintain an optimal temperature for life forms to thrive and reproduce due to the planet’s greater distance from the Sun.
However, the ancient bacteria’s use of hydrogen and production of methane gradually eroded their planet’s heat-trapping mechanism, rendering Mars inhospitable due to its extreme cold.
The normal temperature of Mars may have been in the ten to twenty degree Celsius range when the creatures thrived, but as the bacteria multiplied, the temperature dropped to about minus 57 degrees, driving them deeper into the planet’s warmer crust.
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Boris Sauterey, an astrobiologist and leader of the study, said: “The components of life are everywhere in the universe.”
“So it’s possible that life appears regularly in the universe. But life’s inability to sustain habitable conditions on the planet’s surface is causing it to die out very quickly. Our experiment goes even a step further, as it shows that even a very primitive biosphere can have a completely self-destructive effect.”
Such sites could be reconsidered for future Mars missions after human exploration begins, Sauterey said. The crew is currently focused on studying present-day Mars. Although the increased levels of methane in the atmosphere could be the result of factors other than microbial activity, the interesting idea remains that life forms such as methanogens may have survived in isolated pockets on Mars, deep underground — oases of extraterrestrial life in an otherwise hostile environment.