A bizarre natural phenomenon in Antarctica has the appearance of blood flowing from beneath a glacier.
Discovered by Australian geologist Thomas Griffith Taylor back in 1911, the so-called ‘Blood Falls’ are a perplexing natural phenomenon in the form of anomalously colored water which flows from beneath the Taylor Glacier in Antarctica and into the nearby Lake Bonney.
An explanation for why the water should appear such a color has evaded scientists for years, but now a team of researchers believe that they may have finally found the answer.
In their new study published in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Science, the authors describe how tiny nanospheres rich in a wide range of elements are likely the key to this peculiar red coloration.
“These analyses suggest that the red color at Blood Falls arises from oxidation of dissolved Fe2+ in the subglacial fluid that transforms upon exposure to air to form nanospheres of amorphous hydroxylated mixed-valent iron-containing material, with color also influenced by other ions in those structures,” the study authors wrote.
Intriguingly, the findings are also significant in relation to the search for potentially habitable environments on other worlds (hence the unexpected choice of journal).
“The results provide a comprehensive mineralogical analysis previously missing from the literature for an analogue site with a well-studied sub-ice microbial community,” the authors wrote.
“Thus, this mineral assemblage could indicate a habitable environment if found elsewhere in the solar system.”