Tiny organisms living below the surface of Mars could potentially survive for millions of years, scientists have suggested, potentially offering hope to alien lovers that there could be extraterrestrial life hiding underneath the planet’s red exterior or elsewhere in the universe.

The team studied how hardy microbes are in the face of gamma radiation, which can be dangerous on Mars because that planet does not have the cushy, protective atmosphere that Earth does. To mimic the Martian setting, the researchers conducted their tests in a climate chamber under low temperatures, low air pressure and “dehydration conditions,” according to a study in the journal Extremophiles. Their goal was to figure out whether Earth microorganisms could survive long-term in a frozen state below the Martian surface during “constant absorption and accumulation of the gamma radiation dose.”

Those organisms fared fairly well: Even after the radiation, the cells remained at high levels and were still capable of performing metabolic activity.

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