These salty compounds are also what makes water on the Martian surface stay liquid, essentially turning it into brine. But new research suggests that life on Mars might be closer to science fiction than science after all.
This was a bit surprising for the researchers because the strain of bacteria used, Bacillus subtilis, belongs to a genus that actually does fine in the presence of perchlorates, as studies of the microbes in terrestrial environments have confirmed. They think this happens because the UV light breaks apart the perchlorate molecules into more reactive ions that wreak havoc on living cells.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom investigated the behaviour of chemical compounds, called perchlorates, which are found on the surface of Mars. The deadly Mars chemical cocktail requires ultraviolet light to kill bacteria, so there's a chance that bacteria may be able to survive a few feet beneath the surface.
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They found that, when exposed to UV light whilst in environmental conditions mimicking those on Mars, the chemicals can kill bacteria commonly carried by spacecraft. When they exposed it to UV waves like those on Mars, the cells became completely sterile within 30 seconds.
According to experts, the other occurring on the surface of Mars substances - oxides of iron and hydrogen peroxide enhance the effects of perchlorates, accelerating the death of bacteria at 10.8 times. Based on the study, the activated particulates are capable of killing bacterias within minutes. Speaking about the findings of the study, Jennifer Wadsworth from Edinburgh's School of Physics and Astronomy said, "Our findings have important implications for the possible contamination of Mars with bacteria and other materials from space missions".
Although it seems pretty obvious that life on Mars wouldn't be necessarily very fulfilling or exciting, considering the extreme cold, radiation and the carbon dioxide made atmosphere, it has still not stopped humans to try and look for life there in hopes that one day maybe we can colonize the red planet. "We show the bacteriocidal effects of UV-irradiated perchlorates provide yet further evidence that the surface of Mars is lethal to vegetative cells and renders much of the surface and near-surface regions uninhabitable".