Water and life in the solar system

Water and life in the solar system

Where and when was liquid water present in the Solar System? Were these aqueous environments suitable for the evolution and subsequent survival of life?

Our research into these questions focuses on primitive asteroids, Mars and sites on Earth that mirror the conditions of Mars.

Our approach

Evidence for the former presence of liquid water within asteroids and the crust of Mars comes from the identification of hydrous minerals within meteorites, and their crystallisation ages are then determined by isotopic analysis.

While water is a prerequisite for life, our assessment of its potential presence beyond Earth is informed by analysing samples from analogous terrestrial environments (e.g. low temperature and high altitude sites in the Chilean Andes) for microbial life and preserved organic molecules (biomarkers).

Why is this research important?

An understanding of the history of liquid water and the conditions under which microbial life is viable is a critical input for models of the early history of the solar system and the evolution of life on Earth.

Results of this work are also highly relevant to interpretation of results from recent cometary, asteroidal and planetary orbiters and sampling missions in addition to the planning of future planetary exploration.

Researcher

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