Life in a cold and dry planet - Lessons for the Phoenix Mission

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Details

Date
Wednesday, August 06 2008 - 12:00 pm, PDT
Speaker
Alfonso F. Davila
Affiliation
NASA Ames Space Sciences Postdoctoral Researcher
Description

The Atacama Desert (Chile) ranks as the driest desert on Earth, and is considered a good analog to the extremely arid conditions on Mars. Alfonso will show how photosynthetic bacteria in the hyper-arid core of the Atacama are almost exclusively found within hygroscopic salts, which favor the condensation of water at relative humidity levels that otherwise hinder the occurrence of liquid water on the surface. The resulting saturated solutions are challenging to life, but the habitability of some salts is enhanced at temperatures close to the eutectic. Hygroscopic minerals provide one of the last habitable niches when liquid water is no longer stable or possible, on the surface of a planet that transitions into extreme hyper-aridity and freezing temperatures. Life in dry and cold planets will likely follow similar survival strategies and adaptations

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