View Full Version : Electrical Dust Storms Could Make Life on Mars Impossible

2006-Jul-31, 08:07 PM
New research is suggesting that planet-wide dust storms on Mars could create a snow of corrosive chemicals toxic to life. These Martian storms generate a significant amount of static electricity, and could be capable of splitting carbon dioxide and water molecules apart. The elements could then reform into hydrogen peroxide molecules, and fall to the ground as a snow that would destroy organic molecules associated with life. This toxic chemical might be concentrated in the top layers of Martian soil, preventing life from surviving.

Read the full blog entry (http://www.universetoday.com/2006/07/31/electrical-dust-storms-could-make-life-on-mars-impossible/)

2006-Jul-31, 10:47 PM
The presence on peroxides on Mars is news 30 years old. And it is much more likely that they are formed by UV photolysis not by the action of static electricity. Neither rover currently on Mars has experienced any charging from electrical activity, suggesting there is much static electricity than some thought.


Ronald Brak
2006-Aug-01, 04:13 AM
I'd be looking for mars life under the ground rather than near the surface. Life on earth exists miles into the crust. If all the life beneath our feet rose to the surface we'd be neck deep in smelly bacteria. (I believe one chap said we'd have a layer 10 feet deep.)

I think that if life once existed on mars, it still exists there now, even though the surface is quite hostile to life. I think this because earth bacteria are so tough. We also know that life appeared on earth in a relatively short period of time, so it seems quite possible that mars was able to pull a similar trick. On the other hand, Mars has only a quater of the area of earth, which means it might take four times longer for the chance occurances that brought about life on earth to occur. If mars froze/dried out before life got started then its possible that conditions for the appearance of life also halted. If it takes an average of half a billion years for life to appear on an earth type world, then we might be looking at two billion years for life to appear on a mars sized world. More than than enough time for martian conditons to go from groovey to suckful.

2006-Aug-01, 02:08 PM
University of Michigan press release:

Mars surface probably can't support life (http://www.umich.edu/news/index.html?Releases/2006/Jul06/r073106a)

The question of whether the planet Mars can support life has entranced lay people and scientists for years. New research suggests that dust devils and storms on Mars produce oxidants that would render the planet's surface uninhabitable for life as we know it.

2006-Aug-01, 02:44 PM
UCal-Berkeley press release:

Mars' dust storms may produce peroxide snow (http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2006/07/31_peroxide.shtml)

The planet-wide dust storms that periodically cloak Mars in a mantle of red may be generating a snow of corrosive chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, that would be toxic to life, according to two new studies published in the most recent issue of the journal Astrobiology.

Based on field studies on Earth, laboratory experiments and theoretical modeling, the researchers argue that oxidizing chemicals could be produced by the static electricity generated in the swirling dust clouds that often obscure the surface for months, said University of California, Berkeley, physicist Gregory T. Delory, first author of one of the papers. If these chemicals have been produced regularly over the last 3 billion years, when Mars has presumably been dry and dusty, the accumulated peroxide in the surface soil could have built to levels that would kill "life as we know it," he said.

2006-Aug-01, 02:47 PM
Goddard press release:

Scientists Suggest Solution to 30 Year Old Mystery Over Viking Mission Results (http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.rss.html?pid=20508)

Electricity generated in dust storms on Mars may produce reactive chemicals that build up in the Martian soil, according to NASA-funded research.

The chemicals, like hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), may have caused the contradictory results when NASA's Viking landers tested the Martian soil for signs of life, according to the researchers. Lead authors Gregory Delory, senior fellow at the University of California Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory, and Sushil Atreya, planetary science professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, reported their results in a tandem set of papers in the June 2006 issue of the journal "Astrobiology".

2006-Aug-01, 09:25 PM
I think it is truly bad science to use an artists conception of what a storm on Mars should look like, when we have two probes that have been imaging Mars activities for more than two years. Nothing like this has been observed, and there has been no observations of electromagnetic activity. This does not mean that it does not happen, but use real images, and real data - using impressions based on artisitic license is miss-leading, if not down right deceptive, when we have so much real data.

2006-Aug-01, 10:40 PM
Yes, but they're talking about big dust storms, not the wimpy little dust devils that have been all the rovers have seen so far (and, I hope, will ever see, considering that if we get a big one it's probably the end of that rover).

2006-Aug-02, 01:55 AM
Electric dust devils, electric dust storms, ,000 of Auroras, evidence of past electrical scaring, strange orbit/tilt mmmm....

Since water vapor and carbon dioxide are the most prevalent molecules in the Martian atmosphere, the most likely ions to form are hydrogen, hydroxyl (OH) and carbon monoxide (CO). One product of their recombination, according to the second study, would be hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Wonder were else this is observed??

Interesting to see were this will end up!