Photosynthesis is the process that uses energy from light to produce oxygen. Now, researchers managed to achieve a landmark discovery of a different type of low energy photosynthesis powered by infrared light. If such a process can successfully produce oxygen, then researchers might have found a way to populate planet Mars.
There are two types of photosynthesis
Plants make up a big part of life on Earth, who are essential for life as they produce oxygen. However, they need sunlight to survive and to perform photosynthesis, the process necessary for oxygen production. Since sunlight is not so accessible on a planet like Mars, researchers concluded it couldn’t have sustained vegetal life.
However, a team of researchers made a huge discovery that might shift the understanding of life on other planets. Apparently, there is also a type of low energy photosynthesis. To produce oxygen, this process only needs infrared power. This process occurs in great ocean depths, as regular sunlight doesn’t reach the plants living at the bottom.
Low energy photosynthesis might fuel Mars with oxygen
The organisms that perform this type of photosynthesis are cyanobacteria. They populate the bottom of the oceans and have existed on Earth for more than 2.5 billion years. Since they are so accessible, researchers decided to take advantage of this and try to produce oxygen in hostile places.
A planet like Mars cannot allow regular photosynthesis, since it’s much too far away from the Sun. This means the sunlight that does reach the planet is not enough to produce oxygen for a larger colony of inhabitants. However, low energy photosynthesis might be possible there.
Cyanobacteria are used to growing in tough conditions, so they might be able to survive on the surface of the Red Planet. In fact, researchers have found cyanobacteria traces on the ISS, so living on Mars won’t be so hard. Therefore, by harvesting the bacteria on the planet and having them perform photosynthesis, researchers might create a friendly environment for human colonists.
The study on this experiment was published in the journal Science.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons