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'Mars-quakes' Could Generate Hydrogen To Support Life

'Mars-quakes' Could Generate Hydrogen To Support Life

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First Posted: Sep 22, 2016 02:27 AM EDT
Four Martian avalanches, 2008
This image has captured at least four Martian avalanches, or debris falls, in action. It was taken on February 19, 2008, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Wikimedia Commons CC0

The grinding together of other rocks during earthquakes shaped new rocks that are rich in hydrogen, according to a new study. This indicates that the same similar activity could be applied in the Red Planet. "Mars-quakes" could generate enough hydrogen and would have a possibility of supporting life as the scientists theorize.

Science Daily reports that the analysis was printed in the journal Astrobiology. It was led by scientists from Yale University, Brock University and the University of Aberdeen.

In the study, the scientists examined the rock formations in the active fault lines in the Outer Hebrides, off the coast of Scotland. Professor John Parnell, the lead author of the study explained that earthquakes cause friction and their analysis of ancient rock in the Outer Hebrides has proven how this produces hydrogen. He further explained that hydrogen is a fuel for simple microbes, so microbes could live off hydrogen produced in the Earth's subsurface as a result of seismic activity, as noted by The Week.

In the previous studies, they indicated that hydrogen is generated during earthquakes when rocks fracture and grind together, according to Sean McMahon, a geologist from Yale University and the first author of the study. He said that their measurements show that enough hydrogen is created to support the growth of microorganisms around the active faults.

McMahon further explained that Mars is not very seismically active. On the other hand, the study suggests that "Mars-quakes" could generate enough hydrogen to support small populations of microorganisms even for short periods of time. He recommended examining the rocks and minerals that are shaped underground around faults and fractures, which are later brought to the surface by erosion, to find evidence of supporting life on the Red Planet. Parnell added that NASA has plans to gauge the seismic activity on Mars on their 2018 InSight mission.


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