If life still exists on the Red Planet, it must be very rare – or so an unexploited energy source in the atmosphere suggests.
The Martian atmosphere is unusually rich in carbon monoxide, which many microbes here on Earth can convert to carbon dioxide to yield energy for growth.
“It’s a free lunch, just sitting in the atmosphere, that microbes could be eating,” says Steven Sholes, an astrobiologist at the University of Washington. The persistence of that leftover lunch suggests that Martian life must be nonexistent, or at least very rare.
*Authored by Peter Kelley and posted to UW Today on June 8, 2015.
Planets with volcanic activity are considered better candidates for life than worlds without such heated internal goings-on.
Now, graduate students at the University of Washington have found a way to detect volcanic activity in the atmospheres of exoplanets, or those outside our solar system, when they transit, or pass in front of their host stars.