Elon Musk may want to colonize Mars, but the red planet may not be habitable after all.
While every so often a study about finding saltwater makes humans hopeful about moving to another planet, it's not very possible.
A new study published in Nature Astronomy, which modeled the atmosphere of Mars to help determine that salty pockets of water present on Mars, found that it was not likely to be habitable by life, of any kind. Including humans.
The team of researchers which included scientists from Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and the University of Arkansas helped allay planetary protection concerns about contaminating potential Martian ecosystems.
Owing to the low temperatures and extremely dry conditions on Mars, a droplet of liquid water on its surface would instantly freeze, boil or evaporate, unless the droplet had dissolved salts in it. This brine would have a lower freezing temperature and would evaporate more slowly than pure water.
"Our team looked at specific regions on Mars -- areas where liquid water temperature and accessibility limits could possibly allow known terrestrial organisms to replicate -- to understand if they could be habitable," said SwRI's Dr Alejandro Soto, a senior research scientist and co-author of the study.
"We used Martian climate information from both atmospheric models and spacecraft measurements. We developed a model to predict where, when and for how long brines are stable on the surface and shallow subsurface of Mars," he added.
"Even extreme life on Earth has its limits, and we found that brine formation from some salts can lead to liquid water over 40% of the Martian surface but only seasonally, during 2% of the Martian year," Soto concluded. "This would preclude life as we know it."
While pure liquid water is unstable on the Martian surface, models showed that stable brines can form and persist from the equator to high latitudes on the surface of Mars for a few percent of the year for up to six consecutive hours. However, the temperatures are well below the lowest temperatures to support life.
Sorry, Elon Musk.