gullies on Mars

Gullies run down the walls of Newton Crater on Mars. (Image credit: NASA/JPL–Caltech/MSSS)

There are never-before-seenMicrobes living deep beneath the permafrost at one of the cold and salty water springs on Earth.

The water at Lost Hammer Spring is up to 2000 feet above the ground. The salt in the water acts as an anti-freeze to keep the water from freezing. The conditions there are alien due to the lack of free oxygen.

The salty environment of Lost Hammer Spring makes it one of the closest analogues to Mars. Some researchers believe that the changes in the slopes of crater walls could have been caused by briny water welling up from underground, similar to the spring at Lost Hammer.

There are puddles of salty water on the Red Planet.

The genomes of more than 100 organisms living in the extreme conditions of Lost Hammer Spring have been found by a team of scientists.

One of the first studies to find these "extremophiles" to be active in such an inhospitable environment was the discovery of microbes on Earth.

Elisse Magnuson, the lead author of a new study describing the findings, said that it took a couple of years to detect active microbial communities.

Arctic landscape

Lost Hammer Spring, 560 miles (900 kilometers) south of the North Pole. (Image credit: Elisse Magnuson)

The microbes are not breathing oxygen to survive in Lost Hammer Spring. Methane and other compounds found on Mars are used to power their metabolisms.

Scientists are divided on whether methane on Mars is geological or biological. A further clue as to the origin of the methane on Mars can be found in the gases incorporated in the permafrost at Lost Hammer Spring.

a rover on Mars

An artist's impression of the Rosalind Franklin rover, which is testing its life-detection capabilities using samples of microbes from Lost Hammer Spring.  (Image credit: ESA/ATG Medialab)

According to the statement, the microbes we found and described at Lost Hammer Spring are surprising because they don't depend on organic material or oxygen to live. The ability to fix carbon dioxide and nitrogen gases from the atmosphere makes them highly adapted to both surviving and thriving in very extreme environments on Earth and beyond.

The results show how life could survive on the red planet. Scientists working on the European Space Agency's delayed Rosalind Franklin ExoMars rover are testing its life detection capabilities on samples of the microbes found at Lost Hammer Spring.

The findings were published in a journal.

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