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Ancient water found in Canada is two billion years old – giving hope to Mars colony dreamers

Could hold secrets to Earth's history and life on other planets

By Katyanna Quach, 19 Dec 2016

Canada's oldest pool of water, nestled deep within a mine, is approximately two billion years old – and it could have sustained life, scientists have discovered.

Scientists collaborated with mining companies to drill deep into the Kidd Mine, Ontario, approximately three kilometers below to discover the oldest water samples. The scientists presented their research at a talk titled New Frontiers for Deep Fluids and Geobiology Research in the World's Oldest Rocks at this year’s American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

The age of the water was estimated by measuring the ratio of dissolved noble gases in the liquid, and matching them to periods in Earth’s history. Helium, neon, argon, and xenon trapped in Earth’s rocks can make its way to water as it trickles through the pores of the rock.

The samples came from an unexpectedly large source of water flowing out of the ground at a rapid rate of several liters per minute.

The new discovery for the oldest water source beats the old record by 500,000,000 years. Water also found in Kidd Mine at 2.4 kilometers was estimated to be 1.5 billion years old.

Although no ancient sources of water beneath the Earth’s surface have ever been found to contain life, the recent finding suggests it is capable of sustaining life. Traces of sulphate in the water provided scientists with a clue that it could have supported primitive life such as unicellular organisms, prompting scientists to consider similar possibilities below the surface of Mars, Saturn or other planets and moons. ®

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