News / Science & Technology

Ancient Mars Lake Could Have Supported Life

The Curiosity rover's view of Yellowknife Bay, where evidence of a once-habitable environment was found. (Courtesy Science/AAAS)
The Curiosity rover's view of Yellowknife Bay, where evidence of a once-habitable environment was found. (Courtesy Science/AAAS)
Mineral-munching microbes could have found a hospitable environment in an ancient Martian lake, according to new research.

Scientists say it’s the best evidence yet of conditions suitable for life on the red planet.

Earlier this year, NASA reported evidence of water on Mars that could have sustained life.

The latest research, published in Science, shows the Mars rover Curiosity has found iron and sulfur minerals in different chemical states at the bottom of an ancient lakebed.

Rock eaters

Those different chemical states show electrons can move around in that environment.

That’s significant because “if you can move electrons around, you’ve basically got food,” said geoscience professor Scott McLennan at Stony Brook University. “In principle, you’d have microbes that could eat the rocks and that’s very common on Earth [in caves and thermal vents]. They’re primitive life forms, but they’re very, very well known and very well understood.”

A string of research papers has suggested there could have been life on Mars, but this is the first time University of Tennessee planetary science professor Hap McSween has been convinced.

“Before, we’ve found evidence of ancient water. We’ve found this or that, various pieces of the puzzle, but never the whole package," McSween said. "And this place really does seem to have the whole package.”

The samples were taken not far from Curiosity’s landing site, in a geological formation known as Yellowknife Bay.

Life on Mars and Earth
 
The area appears to have been a lake more recently than researchers thought - though still nearly 4 billion years ago. 
 
That’s about the time life was emerging on Earth. 
 
“It could be that the two planets had emerging but very simplified life at the same time,” McSween said. “But we’re a long way from figuring out that this interesting lake deposit has any evidence of life.”
 
The rover is not equipped to look for fossil microbes that could answer once and for all the question of whether there was life on Mars. 
 
“Ultimately, what’s going to have to happen is to start the process of collecting samples on Mars [and] getting them ready to return them to Earth,” McSween said. “This certainly would be a prospective place to go and look for samples.”
 
Back to the plan
 
In the meantime, the rover is headed for Mt. Sharp, a 5-kilometer-high formation of layered rock.
 
“It’s like the pages of a book. You just work your way up through the history of Mars as it’s recorded in the sedimentary record,” McSween said.
 
Mt. Sharp is rover mission’s original target. The remarkable discovery of a habitable ancient lake is just a detour.
 

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid