Saturday , January 23 2021

Mars and desert Atacama: devastating effect of super-intense rain?

What has happened in this Chilean landscape could be a good example of what happened at the most primitive Mars. / Photo: Carlos González Silva in Hypertextual

What has happened in this Chilean landscape could be a good example of what happened at the most primitive Mars. / Photo: Carlos González Silva in Hypertextual

Atacama desert is truly a unique place in the world. It is considered to be the most deserted desert on the planet, rightfully because it can take several decades without any kind of rainfall. This makes it a fairly unattainable region for life, though many microorganisms can adapt to extreme climatic conditions that prevail and proliferate without any problems.

But what happens when the most recent place in the world begins to rain? These extreme conditions suddenly cease to be so customized organisms are faced with an environment in which their survival is very complex. These conclusions can be drawn from a study published today by a group of scientists at the CSIC Center for Astrobiology, Scientific communications about nature.

When the rain turns into a problem

In January of that year, an international team of researchers was published PNAS a study that analyzed the effects of rain in the Atacama Desert Area, where sometimes several rainfall occasionally appears for several decades.

Rainfall that has led to changes in microbial diversity could be the result of global climate change

In this case, after the rainy season, they confirmed the intense flowering of the microbial population of the region. The reason, according to the author's conclusion, was that many of these microbes remained in state of mind until the conditions became favorable for their proliferation. Among the authors of this study were Daniel Carrizo and Víctor Parro, two Spanish scientists who signed this new work published today. However, in this case the conclusions are very different.

For the implementation of this last study, researchers have traveled to the heart of the Chilean desert after a series of unusual rain in this region. "In general, when the highest rain is in Chile, rain falls at the foot of the Andes," he explains. Hipertextual Armando Azua-Bustos, the first author of the study. "It is interesting that in this case the rain has gone further north and because of the mass filled with the moisture from the Pacific." The origin of the rain and the intensity with which it came about implied a phenomenon that was not found in the records and that, according to calculations of experts, it can only happen once every 100 years. This, according to Azua, can be the result of global climate change.

These rains resulted in the formation of salty lagoons on the surface of the desert, very rich in nitrates, sulphates and perchlorates. By analyzing geochemical and microbiological conditions after this unexpected time phenomenon, they discovered that there was great devastation of microbial populations. The reason for this debacle, according to the authors of the study, is that they were very dry, so they could not withstand the excess water that came after the rain. Namely, according to Azua's claims, only four of the sixteen species that were on the ground before the rain could be discovered after the rain. This could explain the difference with other studies that have found a large amount of microbiological life after the rain since there is a high concentration of microorganisms but can only come from one or several species that have been able to adapt to sudden changes in weather conditions through mechanisms such as disadvantage in adverse times.

A possible story of life on Mars

Mars and Desert Atacama / (Photo: Carlos González Silva / Hipertextual)

(Image: Carlos González Silva / Hipertextual)

"Mars had the first geological period, Noéic (4,500 to 3,500 million years ago), during which there was plenty of water on its surface," co-author Alberto González Fairén said in a statement. This is concluded by the presence on the surface of the planet traces of the passage of rivers, lakes and deltas. This period, which coincides with the origins of life on Earth, is also perfect for the existence of Marxian life. If it ever happened, it must have been with great probability. However, over time, the planet lost its atmosphere and its hydrosphere, and Mars became a dry and uncompromising environment.

Then, during what was known as the Hesperian period (between 3,500 and 3,000 million years), large amounts of water re-excavated its surface in the form of canals. And those researchers have found similarities to what has been described in the Atacama desert, as it may be that some microbes that have adapted to the latest state of the conditions were unexpectedly unable to cope with the arrival of these new water bodies, disappearing and leaving the planet as we know today .

Atacama Desert is one of the most widely used satellite analogs on Earth. In fact, this will be the second and final ExoMars Roving Examination Field, which has recently made the first field tests in the Almeri Wilderness. So what happened in this Chilean landscape could be a good example of what happened at the most primitive Mars. If so, can it still be a trace of that life? They will say that time and missions that will soon come to the Red Planet. (Azucena Martín in Hypertextual)

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