In the driest desert found underground oasis

In the driest desert found underground oasisIn Chile's Atacama Desert ultrasuhoy two meters below the surface found a thriving colony of microorganisms.

Discovery suggests that Mars may still have a life, though have to dig deep.

Atacama Desert — the driest place on the planet — has long been considered a good analogue of the Red Planet. Rain falls there only a few times in a century, and the soil is full of salt. Mars, of course, much worse: there is very cold, and the surface is constantly being processed by ultraviolet radiation, which can not handle thin atmosphere.

But for want of a better many machines and tools that will be sent to the Red Planet, it was tested in the Atacama. Was no exception, "device for detecting signs of life" (Signs of Life Detector, SOLID), with which Victor Parrot from the Center for Astrobiology (Spain) and colleagues analyzed samples of soil from the Atacama, taken at different depths (up to five meters) .

SOLID molecule of interest that are relevant for all living things — the low molecular weight carbohydrates, proteins and DNA. It offers you three hundred antibodies that bind to them. Once the target molecule is found, a special camera records the result. Just by the way, arrange a test for pregnancy.

Scientists have discovered bacteria, archaea, and the DNA and other molecules associated with life in the samples collected in the two meters from the surface. Earlier such forms of life were 30 cm below the surface of the Atacama. They exist because of the thin film of water, which is formed by crystals of salt in the soil. Water enters it from the atmosphere or underground aquifers.

Although sunlight is at a depth of two meters is not felt in the soil are many other potential sources of heat — such as acetic and formic acids, and ions, which can be used instead of oxygen for respiration.

Mr Parry and his colleagues believe that the findings can be extrapolated to Mars: "Microorganisms having to deal with similar environmental challenges, and develop similar molecular mechanisms."

Version of the tool that is used to work on the Red Planet, researchers promise to build only $ 15 million European Space Agency plans to provide a similar device rover ExoMars, scheduled for launch in 2018. True, it uses only 40 antibodies. In addition, after the failure of NASA's participation in the project implementation to be at risk.

The study is published in the journal Astrobiology.

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