Hopes for Life on Mars boosted by rocks found in Outer Hebrides

‘Marsquakes’ that happen on the Red Planet could be an important life source for aliens, the study suggests

The islands of Barra and Uist share an important similarity with Mars
The islands of Barra and Uist share an important similarity with Mars

Rocks found in the Outer Hebrides might suggest that there’s life on Mars.

A major new study has looked at the landscape in the islands of Barra and Uist and suggests that Mars – which shares an important similarity – could be capable of sustaining alien life.

The work looked at the way that rocks on those islands undergo tremors, which can generate hydrogen in the Earth’s crust. The same tremors, known as “Marsquakes”, happens on the Red Planet and might also be producing conditions for life there, the scientists suggest.

Hydrogen could be an important energy source for whatever life there is on Mars, which if it exists would look wildly different to us and would have evolved to live in incredibly harsh conditions.

Lead researcher Professor John Parnell, from the University of Aberdeen, said: “Earthquakes cause friction, and our analysis of ancient rock in the Outer Hebrides has demonstrated how this creates hydrogen.

“Hydrogen is a fuel for simple microbes, so microbes could live off hydrogen created in the Earth’s subsurface as a result of seismic activity.

“This is a model that could apply to any other rocky planet, and on Mars there are so-called 'Marsquakes' that may produce hydrogen and therefore could feed life in the Martian sub-surface.

NASA wants to grow potatoes on Mars

“Our analysis finds that conservative estimates of current seismic activity on Mars predict hydrogen generation that would be useful to microbes, which adds strength to the possibility of suitable habitats that could support life in the Martian sub-surface.”

Nasa hopes to measure the same seismic activity when it sends its 2018 InSight mission to Mars.

“Our data will make those measurements all the more interesting,” said Prof Parnell.

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