Mars Current Affairs

Researchers: Soil of Mars may be Toxic to Alien Life

According to the research carried out by Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in the UK, surface of Mars has chemical compounds called perchlorates that can wipe out living organisms.

Salient Facts

The researchers have found that the chemical compounds found on the surface of Mars when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light can kill the bacteria which are commonly carried by spacecraft. This finding has given a blow to the hopes of finding alien life on the surface of the Mars.

The research has also suggested that the effect of perchlorates gets compounded by two other type of chemicals found on the Mars such as iron oxides and hydrogen peroxide. With the presence of all three chemicals, the scientists saw a more than 10-fold increase in death of bacteria cells when compared to those caused by the perchlorates alone.

Scientists carried out an investigation to study the potential reactivity of perchlorates and their effect on Bacillus subtilis, a bacterium which is commonly found on spacecraft and also on the soils and rocks. It was found out that when magnesium perchlorate was exposed to UV radiation as on Mars then it becomes capable of killing bacteria more effectively than UV light alone. In the presence of concentrations of perchlorate similar to those found on Mars, cells of B subtilis will quickly die.

The above study has concluded that the Martian surface may be highly damaging to living cells owing to a toxic mix of oxidants, iron oxides, perchlorates and UV energy.


MIT scientists develop new technique to find signs of life on Mars

Scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) US have developed a novel spectroscopic technique to find signs of present or former extraterrestrial life on the Mars.

The technique incorporated on instrument dubbed as SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) may help NASA’s new Mars rover to be launched in 2020 to find signs of life on Mars.

What will new Mars rover do?

  • The new Mars rover will be tasked to probe a region of the planet scientists believe could hold remnants of ancient microbial life.
  • It will collect samples of rocks and soil, and store them on the Martian surface and these samples would be returned to Earth so that scientists can meticulously analyse them.
  • The rover can quickly and non-invasively identify sediments on the Mars that are relatively unaltered, and that maintain much of their original composition.

How it will work?

  • The new technique centres on a new way to interpret results of Raman spectroscopy, a common, non-destructive process that geologists use to identify chemical composition of ancient rocks.
  • Among its suite of scientific tools, the 2020 Mars rover includes SHERLOC, an instrument that will acquire Raman spectra from samples on or just below the Mar’s surface.
  • SHERLOC will be pivotal in determining whether life ever existed on Mars. Using it will be able to estimate the ratio of hydrogen to carbon atoms from the substructure of the peaks in Raman spectra.