By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
Have you ever seen a movie or read a book about aliens? You know, those super smart beings that come from Mars and have really big heads. As cool… or creepy… as they seem, we haven’t exactly heard about contact with intelligent aliens on the news. But what if I told you that there could be life on Mars?
First, let’s talk about one of the reasons that there isn’t life on Mars. Temperatures on Mars, on average, can be as low as -67o Fahrenheit. Brrrr! That’s much lower than the freezer you might keep food in, which is usually around 0o Fahrenheit. Such frostiness makes it tough for an animal, or even bacteria, to survive in, especially if they don’t have a nice warm coat! However, scientists from McGill University have found a bacterium – individual bacteria – in the Canadian Arctic that suggests life can be possible on Mars! The bacterium, named Planococcus halocryophilus OR1 (say that three times fast!), is able to survive and grow in temperatures as low as -13 o Fahrenheit. This is the coldest temperature scientists have ever found bacteria able to thrive in.
How does it survive? Well, the proteins in bacteria, which are important building blocks inside its body, usually freeze in such cold temperatures. However, this particular bacterium has a special protein that still works, even in ice! It can also protect itself from becoming frozen. Scientists predict that if a bacterium can live in such cold temperatures here, then it might even be able to survive on Mars! Though scientists haven’t made contact with life on Mars yet, you have to admit, Planococcus halocryophilus OR1 is pretty “cool” for a bacterium.