Potential For Liquid Water Biochemistry Deep Under The Surfaces Of The Moon, Mars And Beyond

Left panel: The depth of the habitable region as a function of the object’s total radius for different surface temperatures. Right panel: The depth of the habitable region as a function of the surface temperature for varying radius. In both panels, we have set the abundance of radionuclides equal to modern Earth.

We investigate the prospects for the past or current existence of habitable conditions deep underneath the surfaces of the Moon and Mars as well as generic bound and free-floating extrasolar rocky objects.

We construct a simple model that takes into account the thermal limits of life as well as the size, surface temperature, and relative radionuclide abundance of a given object and yields the spatial extent of the subsurface habitable region. We also investigate the constraint imposed by pressure on habitability, and show that it is unlikely to rule out the prospects for life altogether.

We estimate the maximum biomass that might be sustainable in deep subsurface environments as a function of the aforementioned parameters from an energetic perspective. We find that it might be a few percent that of Earth's subsurface biosphere, and three orders of magnitude smaller than Earth's global biomass, under ideal circumstances. We conclude with a brief exposition of the prevalence of rocky objects with deep biospheres and methods for detecting signatures of biological activity through forthcoming missions to visit the Moon and Mars.

Manasvi Lingam, Abraham Loeb
Comments: 7 pages; 3 figures
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2008.08709 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2008.08709v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Manasvi Lingam
[v1] Wed, 19 Aug 2020 23:53:47 UTC (261 KB)

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