Scientists have discovered in a huge cave in Italy signs of the existence of life at around 1,300 feet depth, an advance that could help to discover life on other planets.
Pennsylvania State University researchers in the United States explored the microbiology and geochemistry of Frasassi Caves in central Italy.
They found variations in the isotope content of atoms in mineral gypsum, which is a weathering product of the cave formation.
Not every gypsum is formed by microbes, but gypsum, which is formed by microbes, has a different ratio of isotopes in the atoms, according to the study published in the journal Astrobiology.
This isotope variation, in combination with other data, shows that life played an active role in the production of the gypsum.
"With this cave environment, we provide a realistic example of how we can identify past and present lives on other planets," said Jenn Maclady, associate professor at Pennsylvania State University.
Scientists know that microbes or microorganisms accelerate chemical reactions. For example, minerals such as gypsum found in the cave form much faster in the presence of microbes.
The team collected gypsum samples from the cave walls, which were likely to come into contact with liquids or moving air, and used a mass spectrometer to study the isotopic ratio of the gypsum
Because microbes accelerate chemical changes, Macalady said that the presence of isotopes Biosignatures could be used to detect the formation of other minerals, not just the Frasassi Caves
The structure of the Frasassi Caves ̵
Mars has caves formed by volcanic activity that provide a hospitable subterranean environment where microbes can cling. According to researchers, Mars also has liquids such as carbon dioxide and water.
These fluids may allow microbes to interact with minerals, accelerating chemical reactions found in the Frasassi caves.
"If we could do it." If we find a similar environment on Mars, we could use that particular biosignature to test for the present or past presence of life, "said Macalady.
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