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Antarctica's Dry Valleys Hold Clues for Exploration of Mars

September 28, 2000

Mysteriously high salt concentrations in the exposed soils of Antarctica's dry valleys--areas perennially devoid of snow and ice cover--are caused by sulfur-emitting marine algae, UC San Diego researchers report in today's Nature. In a discovery important for future Martian exploration, the scientists also found that digging more deeply into the soil of the dry valleys yielded higher concentrations of biologically produced sulfates.

"What this tells us is that when we go to Mars to retrieve soil samples, we're going to have to go below the surface to retrieve samples, because these sulfates may migrate," said Mark Thiemens, dean of UC San Diego's division of physical sciences.

--Compiled by Times medical writer Thomas H. Maugh II

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