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Clues to Mars life in Earth’s Atacama Desert

17 Nov 2020, 11:33 UTC
Clues to Mars life in Earth’s Atacama Desert
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Researchers from Cornell University in the U.S. and Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología have found a diverse ecosystem of microbes living in wet clay layers beneath the arid Atacama Desert in Chile. Could life be found in similar clay layers on Mars? Image via Alberto Fairén/ Cornell Chronicle.
Mars is dry, dusty and desolate (albeit with some stunning scenery). The extremely arid landscape shares many similarities with deserts on Earth, and scientists have been studying these desert regions for years, to try to find clues to possible microbial life on Mars, either now or in the past.
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Now, researchers at Cornell University and Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología have announced new findings that could have implications for subsurface microbial life on the red planet. The scientists have found microorganisms thriving in the clay-rich, shallow soil layers in the Atacama Desert in Chile. The finding suggests that microbes, either living or fossils, could be found in similar clay layers on Mars.
The intriguing peer-reviewed results were published in Scientific Reports on November 5, 2020.
Diagram of soil layers and photos ...

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