One of the most discussed mysteries of Mars is methane found in the atmosphere of the Red Planet. Due to the fact that methane is rapidly destroyed by the ultraviolet light of the Sun, there must be a mechanism for the constant replenishment of organic gas found on Mars by orbiters and astronomical observations from Earth.
Does the mechanism have a geological or mechanical origin? According to research by the University of Arkansas, there is a suspicion of the latter.
In the course of numerous experiments of various types of microorganisms capable of producing gas, known as methane, the researchers selected two types of unicellular bacteria that could survive under the cold regolith of Mars.
Although these microorganisms exist on Earth, their usual life cycle is very alien to our understanding of living conditions. Methanogens do not require sunlight, oxygen or organic compounds. They metabolize hydrogen (as an energy source) and carbon dioxide (as a carbon source). As waste, these microbes generate methane. Methanogens are usually found in the intestines of cows and other animals.
Maybe extraterrestrial methanogens live under the surface of Mars?
"The temperature on the surface of Mars varies widely, often in the range of minus 90 degrees Celsius (-130 degrees Fahrenheit) and up to 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) in one Martian day," says Rebecca Mickol. PhD student at the University of Arkansas. In their study, Mickol worked with Timothy Kral on the study of methanogens and their hypothetical brothers on Mars since 1990 and identified two enduring methanogens: Methanothermobacter wolfeii and Methanobacterium formicicum, exposing them to extreme weather conditions.
"The survival of these microorganisms is confirmed by long-term freeze / thaw cycles, which suggests that these methanogens can potentially live in the depths of Mars," Mickol said. Two methanogens were chosen as hyperthermophile and thermophile, that is, one of them is able to survive at extremely high temperatures, and the other at high temperatures.
"The low temperature on Mars is an obstacle to their growth, but they survived," says Mickol. "However, after they were placed in a warm room, the methanogens continued to grow."
This mystery is complicated by the latest news from NASA's Curiosity rover, which was unable to detect the presence of methane in the atmosphere in the area of the Gale crater, so much remains to be explored.