Analog Studies

Cold, Dry, Windy, And UV Irradiated – Surveying Mars Relevant Conditions In Ojos del Salado Volcano

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
June 1, 2020
Filed under
Cold, Dry, Windy, And UV Irradiated – Surveying Mars Relevant Conditions In Ojos del Salado Volcano
Ojos del Salado region

The Special Collection of papers in this issue of Astrobiology provide an overview of the characteristics and potential for future exploration of the Ojos del Salado volcano, located in the Andes Mountains in front of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.

The main benefits of this site compared with others are the combination of strong UV radiation, the presence of permafrost, and geothermal activity within a dry terrain. The interaction between limited snow events and wind results in snow patches buried under a dry soil surface. This leads to ephemeral water streams that only flow duringdaytime hours. On this volcano, which has the highest located subsurface temperature monitoring systems reported to date, seasonal melting of the permafrost is followed by fast percolation events. This is due to the high porosity of these soils. The results are landforms that shaped by the strong winds.

At this site, both thermal springs and lakes (the latter arising from melting ice) provide habitats for life; a 6480m high lake heated by volcanic activity shows both warm and cold sediments that contain a number of different microbial species, including psychrophiles. Where the permafrost melts, thawing ponds have formed at 5900m that is dominated by populations of Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria, while in the pond sediments and the permafrost itself Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Patescibacteria, Proteobacteria, and Verrucomicrobia are abundant. In turn, fumaroles show the presence of acidophilic iron-oxidizers and iron-reducing species. In spite of the extreme conditions reported at Ojos del Salado, this site is easily accessible.

Á. Kereszturi, J. Aszalós, Zs. Heiling, Zs. Kapui, Cs. Király, Sz. Leél-Össy, B. Nagy, Zs. Nemerkényi, B. Pál, Á. Skultéti, Z. Szalai
Comments: Accepted in Astrobiology Special Issue 2020. 04. 10
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
DOI: 10.1089/ast.2018.2013
Cite as: arXiv:2005.14450 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2005.14450v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Bernadett Pál
[v1] Fri, 29 May 2020 08:44:17 UTC (210 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻