By Catherine Veronis, Staff Writer
It has been recently proposed in the science world that earthquakes on our own planet are a source of life forms, and that this new information could be applicable to Mars. Studies suggest that during earthquakes, when rocks rupture, crack, and grind together, the silicon in those rocks chemically reacts with water, leading to production of hydrogen gas. When this hydrogen reacts with oxygen (in the air), it creates enough energy to support actual life – in the form of microbes, a tiny single-cell organism that can’t be seen with the human eye. Microbes come in the form of bacteria, fungi, viruses, protists and many other types. They are the oldest life form on our own planet – and could potentially be the youngest, and first, life form on Mars in the future.
You might be wondering – how could hydrogen, and therefore life forms, be produced from ‘Marsquakes’ without any water on the planet? Thanks to scientific research in the last decade, it has been suggested that liquid H2O was once in abundant supply on Mars, and that there could be large reserves of water three miles underground.
However, earthquakes on Mars are much more rare than on Earth due to the lack of tectonic plates and volcanic activity on the Red Planet. Mars researchers have predicted that quakes with a magnitude above 5 occur every 4,500 years, and observed that magnitude-2 quakes happen every 34 days – this produces only about 11 tons of hydrogen gas a year, which sounds like a lot but is a relatively small amount. But don’t be discouraged; the same researchers believe this could be enough to support low-level microbial activity.
In the big picture, this new information is huge. For years, space researchers and astronomers have been calculating and observing the possibility of life on Mars. Any hint of living activity could be the start of life on the Red Planet and elsewhere. Think about it—in the future, neighboring aliens could be just a few light-years away!