It can be hard to imagine that any form of life can live in one of the harshest places on Earth, the Atacama desert in Chile. Researchers have now discovered evidence of microbial life surviving in the driest desert on Earth.
With this discovery and an extrapolation, the hopes of the scientific world that Mars has been or would be capable of sustaining life, regardless of the harsh conditions existing there, have increased.
What Does This Discovery Mean for Life on Mars
After a brief rain in the Atacama desert, researchers examined the microbial life that abounded there. These come from from the Technical University of Berlin, Germany. As the desert dried, they noted that while many of the microbes died, a few appeared to enter a dormant state.
The researchers now believe that this could mean that indigenous microbes might exist on our neighboring planet. Ones that could activate when faced even with small amounts of precipitation. The Atacama desert was used as a close example of Mars based on its soil and environmental conditions.
It is not that unusual for small amounts of precipitation to fall on the Red Planet. The dormancy length of any potential microbes living there is still unknown. So it might be possible that these could today activate under the right conditions.
Finding evidence of indigenous microbial life in the driest desert on Earth gives researchers hope that microbes could have or might still exist below the surface of Mars.
Using the Atacama desert as an example of what microbes can do to survive might help introduce a new line of research. One that could specifically target the surface of the Red Planet.
As technology advances, it might be possible for scientists to search for evidence of dead or dormant microbes.
A study paper with the results is available in the journal PNAS.
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