File photo: The Atacama desert in the Andes mountain range outside of Antofagasta, Chile, 15 April 2013. (REUTERS/Julie Gordon)
Freak rainfall in the driest part of the world have revealed the hidden microbes that could indicate what life on Mars might look like.
The Atacama Desert in chile is one of the most hostile environments on Earth, such as Mars, the arid landscape is completely void of life.
But a recent rainstorm in the South American desert, where rainfall can be as low as 8mm per year, it is evident that a place that seems to be habitable may actually teeming with life.
A number of bacteria, fungi and other micro-organisms are living dormant under the seemingly barren soil for decades waiting for the very rare rainfall to wake them up.
In the course of many years, the bugs have adapted to the unforgiving dry, ultraviolet radiation and salt, researchers suggest that their discovery could be an indicator for the possibility of life on Mars.
The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which was led by astrobiologist Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch, a professor at the Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the German Technical University of Berlin.
In 2015, Dr. Schulze-Makuch took a team of researchers on a trip to the Atacama Desert after a year’s worth of rain was dumped on the area during a freak weather event.
They took samples of soil from different parts of the desert and returned in 2016 and 2017 for the collection of more samples.
In the beginning of the samples, Dr Schulze-Makuch and his team saw a number of living organisms that thrive in the soil, but in 2017, if the soil is dry from the unexpected rain, the insects began to return to the sleep mode.
“In the past, researchers have found dying organisms in the vicinity of the surface, and remnants of the DNA, but this is really the first time that someone has been able to a persistent form of life in the soil of the Atacama Desert,” Dr. Schulze-Makuch said.
“We believe these microbial communities can lay dormant for hundreds or even thousands of years in circumstances very similar to what you would find on a planet like Mars and then come back to life when it rains.”
Mars was thought to once be covered in the oceans and lakes, an environment very conducive to life, but scientists speculate whether the microbes might have moved underground as the water is dried up.
Because it has not rained on the Red Planet in a few billion years, it is difficult to test whether this theory could be correct.
The australian company, pink floyd Space Technologies, is currently working with NASA for the construction of an experimental rover will be on Mars by 2024.
The rover will be designed to drill into the surface of the planet and extract water and could bring scientists closer to discovering if life on Mars exists.
This story was previously published in the news.com.au.