Origins of life on Earth… and Mars? Billion-year-old water discovery unveiled by Manchester scientists

By Mancunian Matters staff

The origins of life on earth could be revealed in ancient spring water more than a billion years old – in an investigation led by University of Manchester scientists.

The water – which tests confirm to be at least 1.5billion years old and possibly even much older – could be the most ancient water on the planet.

It was discovered in boreholes in a copper and zine mine almost a mile and half underground in Canada.

Hosting an abundance of chemicals known to support life, including hydrogen and methane, these could provide energy to microbes that have been hidden in the dark for vast periods of time.

Because these are the building blocks of life, it is believed the discovery could shed light on not only the origins of life on earth, but also if life could survive on other planets such as Mars.

Professor Chris Ballentine, from the University of Manchester, is the project director.

He said: “Our finding is of huge interest to researchers who want to understand how microbes evolve in isolation, and is central to the whole question of the origin of life, the sustainability of life, and life in extreme environments and on other planets.”

Water of this age had previously only been discovered in tiny bubbles trapped in ancient rock.

The discovery in Ontario, Canada, finds the ancient water in abundance – pouring at a rate of almost two litres a minute from the mines.

Picture courtesy of Haglundc, with thanks.

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