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Driest Place on Earth Hosts Life

SpaceDaily (May 20, 2015)

SpaceDaily (May 20, 2015)

Researchers have pinpointed the driest location on Earth in the Atacama Desert, a region in Chile already recognised as the most arid in the world. They have also found evidence of life at the site, a discovery that could have far-reaching implications for the search for life on Mars.

For more than a decade, the Yungay region has been established as the driest area of the hyper-arid Atacama desert, with conditions close to the so-called "dry limit" for life on Earth.

Several academic papers have been published reporting on the extraordinary characteristics of the site and its relevance to astrobiologists as an analogue of conditions on Mars. However, following a more systematic search of the desert, a Chilean research team has now found a new site, Maria Elena South (MES), which it describes as "much drier" than Yungay.

Lead author Armando Azua-Bustos, an environmental biologist and research scientist at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science in Seattle, says the team discovered that MES has a mean atmospheric relative humidity (RH) of 17.3 percent and a soil RH of a constant 14 percent at a depth of one meter.

This soil value matches the lowest RH measurements taken by the Mars Science Laboratory at Gale Crater on Mars, establishing the fact that conditions at the site are as dry as those found recently on the Martian surface.

Source : Andrew Williams for Astrobiology Magazine Moffett Field CA (SPX) May 20, 2015

Pour en savoir plus (SpaceDaily)

Page publiée le 24 août 2015