Possibility of life higher below surface of Mars, space radiation may act as catalyst, study suggests

While conditions are considered less harsh and traces of water have also been found, the subsurface has yet to be fully-explored.

So far, researchers have found no evidence to suggest that life once existed on the surface of Mars. But recent findings have pointed to the possibility of life below the planet's surface.

While the conditions for life are considered less harsh and traces of water have also been found, the subsurface has yet to be fully-explored.

Astrophysicist and research scientist Dimitra Atri at the Center for Space Science at New York University, Abu Dhabi, is of the belief that the subsurface would be a more suitable candidate to support Martian life.

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, Atri has argued that continuous bombardment by galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) could easily provide the energy required to stimulate organic activity.

The research scholar studied the effect on the environment of the Red Planet's subsurface when GCRs are continuously emitted. In a thermodynamic process called the chemical disequilibrium, the study revealed the radiation could act as major catalysts in developing life-generating conditions.

A planet’s global magnetic field is the magnetic field that extends from its interior and to outer space.

With a thin atmosphere to protect the surface from radiation, the likelihood of life existing below the surface has thought to be higher.

Atri has argued that the GCRs will induce a certain chemical reaction that can create metabolic energy and host living organisms. The process will be quite similar to the chemical and radiation environments seen on Earth.

"It is exciting to contemplate that life could survive in such a harsh environment, as few as two meters below the surface of Mars," added Atri.

Interestingly, the study also suggests ways by which life could be detected by scientists in future missions to Mars.

Space agencies have plans of exploring the untouched subsurface of Mars, as per a report in the Independent.

A rover as part of the ExoMars mission, jointly handled by the European Space Agency and the Roscosmos, was supposed to be launched but had to be delayed for technical reasons. Now the rover will be sent in two years’ time.

Atri is of the strong opinion that the ExoMars rover will be able to detect life beneath the surface.

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