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Characterization of a Subsurface Biosphere in a Massive Sulfide Deposits at Rio Tinto, Spain: Implications for Extant Life on MarsThe recent discovery of abundant sulfate minerals, particularly Jarosite by the Opportunity Rover at Sinus Merdiani on Mars has been interpreted as evidence for an acidic lake or sea on ancient Mars [1,2], since the mineral Jarosite is soluble in liquid water at pH above 4. The most likely mechanism to produce sufficient protons to acidify a large body of liquid water is near surface oxidation of pyrite rich deposits [3]. The acidic waters of the Rio Tinto, and the associated deposits of Hematite, Goethite, and Jarosite have been recognized as an important chemical analog to the Sinus Merdiani site on Mars [4]. The Rio Tinto is a river in southern Spain that flows 100 km from its source in the Iberian pyrite belt, one of the Earth s largest Volcanically Hosted Massive Sulfide (VHMS) provinces, into the Atlantic ocean. The river originates in artesian springs emanating from ground water that is acidified by the interaction with subsurface pyrite ore deposits. The Mars Analog Rio Tinto Experiment (MARTE) has been investigating the hypothesis that a subsurface biosphere exists at Rio Tinto living within the VHMS deposit living on chemical energy derived from sulfur and iron minerals. Reduced iron and sulfur might provide electron donors for microbial metabolism while in situ oxidized iron or oxidants entrained in recharge water might provide electron acceptors.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Document Type
Conference Paper
Stoker, C. R.
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Stevens, T.
(Portland State Univ. OR, United States)
Amils, R.
(Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial Spain)
Gomez-Elvira, J.
(Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial Spain)
Rodriquez, N.
(Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial Spain)
Gomez, F.
(Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial Spain)
Gonzalez-Toril, E.
(Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial Spain)
Aguilera, A.
(Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial Spain)
Fernandez-Remolar, D.
(Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial Spain)
Dunagan, S.
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2005
Publication Information
Publication: Lunar and Planetary Science XXXVI, Part 18
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Science And Exploration
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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