Subfreezing activity of microorganisms and the potential habitability of Mars' polar regions

Bruce M. Jakosky, Kenneth H. Nealson, Corien Bakermans, Ruth E. Ley, Michael T. Mellon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

91 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The availability of water-ice at the surface in the Mars polar cap and within the top meter of the high-latitude regolith raises the question of whether liquid water can exist there under some circumstances and possibly support the existence of biota. We examine the minimum temperatures at which liquid water can exist at ice grain-dust grain and ice grain-ice grain contacts, the minimum subfreezing temperatures at which terrestrial organisms can grow or multiply, and the maximum temperatures that can occur in martian high-latitude and polar regions, to see if there is overlap. Liquid water can exist at grain contacts above about -20°C. Measurements of growth in organisms isolated from Siberian permafrost indicate growth at -10°C and metabolism at -20°C. Mars polar and high-latitude temperatures rise above -20°C at obliquities greater than ∼40°, and under some conditions rise above 0°C. Thus, the environment in the Mars polar regions has overlapped habitable conditions within relatively recent epochs, and Mars appears to be on the edge of being habitable at present. The easy accessibility of the polar surface layer relative to the deep subsurface make these viable locations to search for evidence of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-350
Number of pages8
JournalAstrobiology
Volume3
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003

Fingerprint

habitability
Cold Climate
Mars
Polar Regions
Ice
microorganisms
polar region
polar regions
mars
ice
microorganism
Temperature
Water
liquid
liquids
organisms
temperature
water
grain dust
Biota

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

Cite this

Jakosky, Bruce M. ; Nealson, Kenneth H. ; Bakermans, Corien ; Ley, Ruth E. ; Mellon, Michael T. / Subfreezing activity of microorganisms and the potential habitability of Mars' polar regions. In: Astrobiology. 2003 ; Vol. 3, No. 2. pp. 343-350.
@article{3318568d82ce49f493f58a2bf9ebe822,
title = "Subfreezing activity of microorganisms and the potential habitability of Mars' polar regions",
abstract = "The availability of water-ice at the surface in the Mars polar cap and within the top meter of the high-latitude regolith raises the question of whether liquid water can exist there under some circumstances and possibly support the existence of biota. We examine the minimum temperatures at which liquid water can exist at ice grain-dust grain and ice grain-ice grain contacts, the minimum subfreezing temperatures at which terrestrial organisms can grow or multiply, and the maximum temperatures that can occur in martian high-latitude and polar regions, to see if there is overlap. Liquid water can exist at grain contacts above about -20°C. Measurements of growth in organisms isolated from Siberian permafrost indicate growth at -10°C and metabolism at -20°C. Mars polar and high-latitude temperatures rise above -20°C at obliquities greater than ∼40°, and under some conditions rise above 0°C. Thus, the environment in the Mars polar regions has overlapped habitable conditions within relatively recent epochs, and Mars appears to be on the edge of being habitable at present. The easy accessibility of the polar surface layer relative to the deep subsurface make these viable locations to search for evidence of life.",
author = "Jakosky, {Bruce M.} and Nealson, {Kenneth H.} and Corien Bakermans and Ley, {Ruth E.} and Mellon, {Michael T.}",
year = "2003",
month = "6",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1089/153110703769016433",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "3",
pages = "343--350",
journal = "Astrobiology",
issn = "1531-1074",
publisher = "Mary Ann Liebert Inc.",
number = "2",

}

Subfreezing activity of microorganisms and the potential habitability of Mars' polar regions. / Jakosky, Bruce M.; Nealson, Kenneth H.; Bakermans, Corien; Ley, Ruth E.; Mellon, Michael T.

In: Astrobiology, Vol. 3, No. 2, 01.06.2003, p. 343-350.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Subfreezing activity of microorganisms and the potential habitability of Mars' polar regions

AU - Jakosky, Bruce M.

AU - Nealson, Kenneth H.

AU - Bakermans, Corien

AU - Ley, Ruth E.

AU - Mellon, Michael T.

PY - 2003/6/1

Y1 - 2003/6/1

N2 - The availability of water-ice at the surface in the Mars polar cap and within the top meter of the high-latitude regolith raises the question of whether liquid water can exist there under some circumstances and possibly support the existence of biota. We examine the minimum temperatures at which liquid water can exist at ice grain-dust grain and ice grain-ice grain contacts, the minimum subfreezing temperatures at which terrestrial organisms can grow or multiply, and the maximum temperatures that can occur in martian high-latitude and polar regions, to see if there is overlap. Liquid water can exist at grain contacts above about -20°C. Measurements of growth in organisms isolated from Siberian permafrost indicate growth at -10°C and metabolism at -20°C. Mars polar and high-latitude temperatures rise above -20°C at obliquities greater than ∼40°, and under some conditions rise above 0°C. Thus, the environment in the Mars polar regions has overlapped habitable conditions within relatively recent epochs, and Mars appears to be on the edge of being habitable at present. The easy accessibility of the polar surface layer relative to the deep subsurface make these viable locations to search for evidence of life.

AB - The availability of water-ice at the surface in the Mars polar cap and within the top meter of the high-latitude regolith raises the question of whether liquid water can exist there under some circumstances and possibly support the existence of biota. We examine the minimum temperatures at which liquid water can exist at ice grain-dust grain and ice grain-ice grain contacts, the minimum subfreezing temperatures at which terrestrial organisms can grow or multiply, and the maximum temperatures that can occur in martian high-latitude and polar regions, to see if there is overlap. Liquid water can exist at grain contacts above about -20°C. Measurements of growth in organisms isolated from Siberian permafrost indicate growth at -10°C and metabolism at -20°C. Mars polar and high-latitude temperatures rise above -20°C at obliquities greater than ∼40°, and under some conditions rise above 0°C. Thus, the environment in the Mars polar regions has overlapped habitable conditions within relatively recent epochs, and Mars appears to be on the edge of being habitable at present. The easy accessibility of the polar surface layer relative to the deep subsurface make these viable locations to search for evidence of life.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=1842538994&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=1842538994&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1089/153110703769016433

DO - 10.1089/153110703769016433

M3 - Article

VL - 3

SP - 343

EP - 350

JO - Astrobiology

JF - Astrobiology

SN - 1531-1074

IS - 2

ER -