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Sunday, 3 July 2022

We might have to dig deeper for signs of life on Mars + think outside the box to find hospitable exoplanets

Did the evidence of life on Mars get zapped by cosmic rays? Scientific evidence is mounting that there could have been life on Mars — even if only microbial — once upon a time. That’s what the Perseverance rover, which landed last year and has been trundling over the Red Planet ever since, was sent to investigate (and you can check out some neat travel pics from the bot here.) But a new study from NASA space scientists suggests cosmic rays likely irradiate all amino acids — key markers that could have traced ancient Martian life — within two meters of Mars’ surface. That means that Perserverance’s perseverance could all be in vain, since the rover can only dig a few centimeters into the planetary surface.

Farther afield in the search for extraterrestrial life: Meet the dozens of ‘Super-Earths.’ The search for life beyond our solar system is most often concentrated on finding planets most like ours, where we assume conditions would be right to recreate life as we know it. But a team studying exoplanets at the University of Zürich is out with a new study that urges scientists to broaden their horizons. They’ve identified so-called “cold Super-Earths” that could in theory have the ability to sustain life for bns of years, despite being bigger than our planet and further away from their suns. “We argue that it should be considered that habitable planets could be very different from Earth, and that we should remain open-minded when investigating such potentially habitable planets,” the study’s lead author tells Vice. The research is based on computer modeling because these rocky exoplanets are so difficult to spot, or in some cases, may not even become potentially hospitable for bns of years to come.

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