Microbes may still exist today beneath the surface of Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Scientists have identified traces of methane inside space rocks that are thought to have come from Mars.
The discovery has been hailed as particularly significant because it opens up the possibility that methane-eating microbes could be living just below the surface of the planet.
"We must be clear that we have not detected life," said Nigel Blamey of Brock University in Ontario. "However, if life exists on Mars, then we should be focusing on the subsurface."
The surface of Mars, where temperatures can plummet to below -90C, is an undeniably hostile environment for life, but if microbes capable of living off methane in place of oxygen can survive in some of the most extreme places on Earth then it is not outside the realms of possibility that something similar could have found a way to eke out an existence below the Martian soil.
Whether or not the methane on Mars is an indication of life however remains to be seen.
The European Space Agency's ExoMars mission, which aims to drill two meters down below the surface when it arrives in 2019, may help to provide some of the answers.
Source: The Guardian | Comments (12)