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Oldest water on Earth found in Canadian mine, could hold clues about ancient life


They key to finding life in the ancient water sample is evidence of Hydrogen and Methane that acts as a food source
They key to finding life in the ancient water sample is evidence of Hydrogen and Methane that acts as a food source

Kevan Karanjia, Staff Writer

May 16, 2013 — Deep inside a Timmins mine, scientists have discovered the oldest flowing water sample ever found on Earth, possibly providing clues about alien life.

Experts believe it's possible for water containing microbial life to exist below Mars' crust (Courtesy NASA)
Experts believe it's possible for water containing microbial life to exist below Mars' crust (Courtesy NASA)

Scientists are excited by what is being described as the world's oldest sample of flowing water.  

The discovery was made while drilling in a copper and zinc mine up in Timmins, Ontario and it could be over 2.5 billion years old. 

Experts from Britain and Canada began research after noticing that miners quite often hit water at very deep depths. 

Water originating from such depths has the potential to house ancient microbes that evolved independently from any surface interference. 

The key to finding life in the sample taken is evidence of hydrogen and methane that could support microorganisms. 

This has lead author of the study, Greg Holland of Lancaster University intrigued. He believes that the discovery and its potential to support life could provide clues for other types life on Earth and other planets.     

"We have identified a way in which planets can create and preserve an environment friendly to microbial life for billions of years," Holland said in a statement. "This is regardless of how inhospitable the surface might be, opening up the possibility of similar environments on the subsurface of Mars."

The team was able to determine an approximate age of the water by looking at how much radioactive atoms in the sample decayed. They concluded the water's age ranges from 1.5 to 2.6 billion years-old. 

Hollland also noted that the hydrogen found could support life in isolation for 2 billion years, raising hopes that deep under the Martian surface life might too exist. 

Funding for the study came from grants in Canada and the UK. Organizations that contributed include the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Research Chairs program, the Natural Environment Research Council in the U.K., and the Deep Carbon Observatory.

While the water found in Timmins is the oldest flowing sample ever found, older specimens have been discovered in the past. 

Some rocks contain tiny bubbles that hold water much older but they cannot support any life. 

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