Ancient Mars Had Energy Source for Potential Life Underground
If life got a foothold in the Martian subsurface long ago, it could have tapped into a plentiful chemical energy source, a new study suggests.
That source was hydrogen, generated when radiation split underground water into its constituent parts. And there was probably enough available hydrogen down there to sustain a sizable community of Mars microbes for hundreds of millions of years, starting about 4 billion years ago, according to the study.
“We showed, based on basic physics and chemistry calculations, that the ancient Martian subsurface likely had enough dissolved hydrogen to power a global subsurface biosphere,” study lead author Jesse Tarnas, a graduate student at Brown University in Rhode Island, said in a statement. “Conditions in this habitable zone would have been similar to places on Earth where underground life exists.”