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Collecting water samples 2.4km underground

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Published on May 16, 2013

A UK-Canadian team of scientists has discovered ancient pockets of water, which have been isolated deep underground for billions of years and contain abundant chemicals known to support life.
This water could be some of the oldest on the planet and may even contain life. Not just that, but the similarity between the rocks that trapped it and those on Mars raises the hope that comparable life-sustaining water could lie buried beneath the red planet's surface.
The findings, published in Nature today, may force us to rethink which parts of our planet are fit for life, and could reveal clues about how microbes evolve in isolation.
Researchers from the universities of Manchester, Lancaster, Toronto and McMaster analysed water pouring out of boreholes from a mine 2.4 kilometres beneath Ontario, Canada.
They found that the water is rich in dissolved gases like hydrogen, methane and different forms -- called isotopes -- of noble gases such as helium, neon, argon and xenon. Indeed, there is as much hydrogen in the water as around hydrothermal vents in the deep ocean, many of which teem with microscopic life.

Video credit: L. Li (2012)

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