Exploring the environments of Martian impact-generated hydrothermal systems and their potential to support life

1Nisha K. Ramkissoon,1Stuart M. R. Turner,1Michael C. Macey,1Susanne P. Schwenzer,2Mark H. Reed,1Victoria K. Pearson,1Karen Olsson-Francis
Meteoritics & Planetary Science (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1111/maps.13697]
1AstrobiologyOU, STEM, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA UK
2Earth Sciences Department, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, 97403–1272 USA
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

Hydrothermal systems that formed as a result of impact events possess all the key requirements for life: liquid water, a supply of bio-essential elements, and potential energy sources. Therefore, they are prime locations in the search for life on other planets. Here, we apply thermochemical modeling to determine secondary mineral formation within an impact-generated hydrothermal system, using geochemical data returned for two soils on Mars found in regions that have previously experienced alteration. The computed mineral reaction pathways provide a basis for Gibbs energy calculations that enable both the identification of available geochemical energy, obtained from Fe-based redox reactions, that could be utilized by potential microbial life within these environments, and an estimate of potential cell numbers. Our results suggest that water–rock interactions occurring within impact-generated hydrothermal systems could support a range of Fe-based redox reactions. The geochemical energy produced from these reactions would be substantial and indicates that crater environments have the potential to support microbial cell numbers similar to what has been identified in terrestrial environments.


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