We have a place on Earth similar to Mars

We have a place on Earth similar to Mars

Credit: roadtovr.com

A place from our Planet is similar to Mars

Humans are determined to find signs of life on the Mars. A lot of resources are being spent for fulfillment of this mission. The existence of water on Mars has strengthened the belief of scientists that this is a pretty possible proposition. Another factor that has helped them to gain confidence is the Atacama Desert of Chile. It is located along the western coast of South America and is unimaginably parched. It is defined as the ‘Hell on Earth’ by some but the thing that tingle the interests of researchers is that it is very similar to the red planet.

It is probably the driest place on Earth (after Dry Valley in Antarctica) as it doesn’t experience rainfall in decades or even centuries in extreme cases. Due to this, the landscape of this region resembles a lot with Mars as it is hostile and arid. Dirk Schulze-Makuch, a planetary scientist, was planning to visit this desert as he was hunting for life in extreme conditions. He prepared his trip in early parts of 2015 but failed to make the journey due to a rainstorm there. It is totally unusual to experience this side of the climate in that part of the world. Dirk showed great disappointment as he said,

You had to prepare everything months before, and then, heck, it’s raining.

The amazing discovery which has been made recently is that microbial life is present there which determines that despite of all the dust and dryness, it is an ecosystem. Dirk’s plan was spoiled due to the rain but it allowed the team to analyze the changes that occur when rain hits the dry soil of that desert. The regions which have more humidity did show signs of life as spectacular beds of flowers were seen. However, the hyper-arid regions stayed as barren as ever. Dirk described those regions in the following words,

It’s difficult to describe. It’s nearly a different planet. It’s kind of lifeless.”

Dirk is very fond of travelling to places where normal human beings don’t even want to go. He explained the reason behind this and said,

It has always fascinated me to go to the places where people don’t think anything could possibly survive and discover that life has somehow found a way to make it work. If life can persist in Earth’s driest environment, there is a good chance it could be hanging in there on Mars in a similar fashion.”

This is not the first time when scientists have found DNA of microbes in the Atacama. Efforts were also done to multiply them on petri dishes but all of them ended in a failure. A question that is asked quite regularly in this context is that are these creatures going to die or do they have the ability to survive. A researcher, Armando Azua-Bustos, at the Center of the Astrobiology in Madrid raised this question in the following manner.

The question is, well, are these creatures coming here to die, or are they able to survive waiting for water.”

Science is dependent on the aid of luck for exploring the secrets of this world. This is what happened this around as the team of Dirk reached the Chilean desert. Highest rainfall ever recorded in this piece of land fell and it helped the experiments. Researchers did go back in 2016 and 2017 to look for more signs of life but observed that lack of rain pushed everything towards death. However, the study did confirm that those microbes evolved in the soil where they were found. Schulze-Makuch said,

This is really the first time that anyone has been able to identify a persistent form of life living in the soil of the Atacama Desert. We believe these microbial communities can lay dormant for hundreds or even thousands of years in conditions very similar to what you would find on a planet like Mars and then come back to life when it rains.”

The work done by Dirk and his team is acknowledged worldwide. People did identify their efforts of DNA Sequencing as the regular mechanisms pick up dead cells as well. In order to avoid that, they specifically picked out those cells which were alive. DNA replication, enzymes, and other molecules were used as evidence of active life before collecting cells. Julia Neilson, soil expert at University of Arizona, praised their sincerity and said,

“They really threw the book at it.”

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