A University of Arkansas researcher has found methane-producing microorganisms in an unexpected place – arid desert soils. This finding strengthens the possibility that such microorganisms can exist under the conditions found on Mars and points the way to possible future experiments for detection of life on a distant planet. Tim Kral, professor of biological sciences in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, along with researchers from the University of Southern California reported their findings online in the journal Icarus. “You don’t commonly find organisms such as methanogens in dry areas,” said Kral. “But finding them in a dry area on Earth is especially significant because the surface of Mars is dry.”
Desert Find Lends More Strength to Theories of Possible Life on Mars University of Arkansas
UA Professor Explores Possibility of Life on Mars University of Arkansas
For centuries, humans have struggled to answer the question, “Are we alone in the universe?” The discovery of methane gas in the Martian atmosphere this past March by the Mars Express orbiter may bring scientists one step closer to being able to answer that question. This discovery has set off a wave of excitement in scientific circles around the world, but nowhere more so than in the laboratory of Univeristy of Arkansas biology professor Timothy Kral. For years, Kral and his team of researchers at the Arkansas-Oklahoma Center for Space and Planetary Sciences have been exploring the possibility that the Red Planet could sustain life.
Keck Foundation Awards $500,000 to Fund Search for Life on Mars University of Arkansas
A $500,000 challenge grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles will enable Derek Sears and his students and colleagues to investigate how liquid water forms on Mars and examine the existence of considerable amounts of near-surface ice all over the planet. They also will study how slight changes in pressure and temperature could transform Mars into a wet planet hospitable to simple life forms. Additionally, a laboratory used by Sears, a professor of chemistry in Fulbright College and director of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Center for Space and Planetary Sciences, will be renovated and named the W.M. Keck Laboratory for Space Simulation at the University of Arkansas.
Surface Water Possible Under Mars-Like Conditions University of Arkansas
A team of researchers from the University of Arkansas has measured water evaporation rates under Mars-like conditions, and their findings favor the presence of surface water on the planet. Water on the planet
Microorganisms Grow At Low Pressures, Implying Possible Life On Mars University of Arkansas
Using a unique device known as the Andromeda Chamber to simulate conditions found on Mars, University of Arkansas researchers discovered that certain microorganisms called methanogens could grow at low pressures. Their findings imply that life could have existed on the Red Planet in the past, present, or that it could do so at some point in the future. Associate professor of biological sciences Tim Kral presented the preliminary results at a bioastronomy conference in Australia in July. “Our goal is first to get the organisms to grow well, then systematically experiment with conditions found on Mars,” said Kral. He and his team first grew test tube cultures of various methanogens in a Mars soil simulant called JSC Mars-1. Derived from altered volcanic ash, it approximates the composition, grain size, density, and magnetic properties of Martian soil.
Microorganisms Survive One Step Closer To Mars Environment University of Arkansas
University of Arkansas researchers have moved one step closer to growing microorganisms under Mars-like conditions by suspending them in water containing dissolved matter from Mars soil simulant. D. Ryan Ormond, Curtis R. Bekkum and Timothy Kral, associate professor of biological sciences, report their findings at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 23, at the American Society for Microbiology meeting in Orlando.
Sustaining Live Methane-Producing Microorganisms University of Arkansas
A University of Arkansas researcher has become the first scientist to grow methane-producing microorganisms under some of the conditions found on Mars. His work may provide clues for finding similar life forms on Mars.