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World’s oldest water found in Canada, Oxford researchers say it dates back 1.6 billion years

ScientiFix, our weekly feature, offers you a summary of the top global science stories of the week, with links to their sources.

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New Delhi: A team from the University of Toronto in Canada has discovered what could be the ‘oldest’ water on Earth.

The researchers found the samples of water from a mine in Ontario in 2009. Tests conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford found that the mean age of the samples was 1.6 billion years old, making it the oldest water sample ever found on Earth.

The team also found microbes in the water samples, which survived in trace amounts of hydrogen and sulfate. While such life forms are known to exist on the ocean floor, this is the first time that such microbial life has been found deep within continents.

The findings may help scientists better understand ancient Earth and how life evolved on this planet.

Read more on this here.

Mars could have life below its surface

Microbes could be living beneath the surface of Mars, according to researchers, as the planet could have a stable and nourishing environment there for billions of years.

To have sufficient chemical energy for life, reducing compounds and oxidising compounds should be present. Reduction is a chemical process that gives a molecule more electrons, and oxidation is one that takes them away. Microbes would need these basic chemical ‘fuels’, along with liquid water, to survive.

While the surface of Mars is barren due to the lack of atmosphere, heavy radiation and cold temperatures, scientists think that beneath the surface, the warmth of the planet’s core keeps water liquid.

When the underground water touches Martian rocks, chemical reactions produce the reduction and oxidation chemicals essential for life.

The chemicals form because Mars rocks have small amounts of trapped radionuclides — atoms that are unstable and eventually release radiation.

When these nuclides emit radiation, it breaks up nearby water molecules into hydrogen gas and oxides, both highly reactive chemicals which go on to create other chemicals that can sustain life.

Read more here.

Also read: You don’t have a male or female brain

Mantis shrimps develop ability to throw punches 9 days after birth

Adult mantis shrimps are known for their powerful punches, but now scientists have found that the crustaceans develop this ability within nine days of hatching.

The mantis shrimp larvae undergo six or seven transformations before emerging as fully developed adults. Their limbs and manoeuvres develop over time.

Researchers used high-speed cameras and high-resolution lenses to investigate the developing crustacean’s manoeuvres in Hawai’i. The team published their study, which noted that mantis shrimp larvae can begin unleashing their ballistic blows in as few as nine days after hatching.

The limbs reach accelerations of nearly 0.385 millimetres per second, which is 5-10 times faster than the larval snacks they dine on. The team could see the minute muscles within the larvae’s glassy bodies contracting as they bowed the exoskeleton.

Read more on this here.

Scientists spot largest flare ever from sun’s nearest neighbour

US scientists have spotted one of the largest stellar flares ever recorded in our galaxy, from the sun’s nearest neighbour Proxima Centauri.

The research has implications for the hunt for life beyond Earth’s solar system. The star has long been a target for scientists hoping to find life beyond Earth’s solar system.

Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf — the smallest, dimmest and most common type of main sequence stars in the galaxy — relatively close to our solar system, just four light-years away. It hosts one planet, Proxima Centauri b, in what is known as the “habitable zone” — a region around a star that has the right range of temperatures for harbouring liquid water on the surface of a planet.

However, while studying Proxima Centauri with ground and space-based telescopes, scientists detected a flare or a burst of radiation that began near the surface of a star, and was one of the most violent seen anywhere in the galaxy.

The team’s findings hint at new physics that could change the way scientists think about stellar flares. It also means that the star is volatile, reducing the likelihood of any form of live on it.

Read more here.

Also read: NASA’s Perseverance rover creates oxygen on Mars, for the first time ever


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