Back in August, New Scientist reported that the landscape of Mars might be sterile due to the presence of hydrogen peroxide. The planet is bleaching itself, in other words, on a near-continual basis.
Specifically, we read, “large amounts of hydrogen peroxide could be produced on Mars as a result of wind-blown dust grains rubbing together.” Because of these interactions – and the resultant electrochemical effects – hydrogen peroxide, “a harsh chemical used as a disinfectant on Earth may rain down on the surface” of the planet. “This process is similar to the way snow forms from water vapour in Earth’s atmosphere, ” we read. “However, the hydrogen peroxide falling on Mars would be in the form of microscopic grains.”
I find this image – the chemical snow of alien planets – quite striking.
Meanwhile, similar electrochemical conditions have been found in Chile’s Atacama Desert, where “photochemistry triggered by the region’s harsh sunlight plays an important role in creating these electric fields” – electric fields, generated in the region’s dusty soil, that produce trace amounts of hydrogen peroxide.