An international team of scientists studied how bacteria behaved in salty chemical compounds and observed that bacteria could survive in briny chemicals, some compounds that are also found on Mars and icy moons in our Solar System, such as Europa and Enceladus, among others. In other words, this study increases the chances that life on Mars and icy moons exists.
The recent discoveries, including the plumes on Europa, the possibility of an underground ocean on Enceladus, one of the moons of Saturn, and the identification of organic matter on Mars and Ceres, our Solar System’s dwarf planet, suggest that the humans are very close to finding extraterrestrial life, be it only bacterial life.
If indeed the discoveries are correct and icy moons in our Solar System house liquid oceans beneath their frozen surface, then these oceans would have a lower freezing temperature due to their composition rich in antifreeze-like compounds such as briny chemicals. Therefore, for life on Mars and icy moons to exist, it must be able to survive the low temperatures and the salty chemicals, at the same time.
Bacteria can live in briny chemicals increasing the chances for life on Mars and icy moons, the study revealed
The scientists from the Technical University of Berlin, Tufts University, Imperial College London, and Washington State University carried out an experiment involving a bacteria that lives in the Arctic permafrost, the Planococcus halocryophilus bacteria.
Researchers exposed Planococcus halocryophilus bacteria to magnesium, sodium, calcium chloride mixtures, and perchlorate. The latter is present on Mars in large amounts and is believed to assist the Red Planet support liquid water.
The bacteria survived in all the before-mentioned solutions, although in perchlorate the survival rates increased only at temperatures below minus 30 degrees Celsius. Therefore, these microorganisms, thanks to their significant adaptability capacity, can survive in the most toxic and extreme environments, and there are dozens of examples right here on Earth where some bacteria not only survive in below freezing temperatures but need these temperatures for metabolic processes and reproduction.
In conclusion, according to the scientists, bacteria can live in briny chemicals which are common to icy space objects in our Solar System. Therefore, there are significant chances that life on Mars and icy moons exists in the form of bacterial life, at least.