Hopes of finding life on Mars, at least on the surface, were dealt a blow Thursday by a study revealing that salt minerals present on the Red Planet kill bacteria.

In lab tests on Earth, the compounds known as perchlorates killed cultures of the bacteria Bacillus subtilis, a basic life form, a research duo from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy reported.

Perchlorates, stable at room temperature, become active at high heat. Mars is very cold.

In the new study, Jennifer Wadsworth and Charles Cockell showed the compound can also be activated by UV light, without heat, in conditions mimicking those on the martian surface.

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