Mars as we know it today is an extremely hostile planet when it comes to life, but there’s always been the possibility that life in some form existed there eons ago. Scientists haven’t found evidence of that — at least not yet — and now new research suggests a possible reason why: Mars is perfectly suited to prevent early life from thriving. It’s terrible news for anyone who dreamed of one day hearing about martians, but there may be a silver lining.
The research, carried out by scientists from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, reveals that certain minerals present on the surface of Mars are deadly to bacteria. The compounds, called perchlorates, were tested in a simulated martian environment here on Earth, and when introduced to a very basic bacteria, the life ceased almost immediately. This discovery paints Mars a very unfriendly place for life to take root, but there are still some questions left to be answered.
For starters, the specific bacteria may simply have been particularly vulnerable to the minerals, and additional testing will need to be carried out to confirm whether or not other basic life forms could coexist in an environment rich with them. Additionally, the fact that the surface of the planet was hostile to life doesn’t eliminate the possibility that subterranean life may have thrived on Mars, including the possibility of marine life.
The research is still ongoing, and the search for life outside of our planet will never cease, but it’s not a particularly good sign for anyone hoping Mars held the key to extraterrestrial life.