Researchers solve the mystery behind 'bleeding' Antarctica waterfall
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The mystery of a red-hued glacier outlet - dubbed Blood Falls - has been solved decades after it was first spotted.
Due to its colour, the spot on Taylor Glacier was given the name Blood Falls and its true cause remained a mystery for decades.
US scientists visited the spot in 2006 and again in 2018 where they collected samples which were then analysed using new technology and equipment.
Despite numerous studies taking place on Blood Falls’ chemistry and microbes living in the water - a full mineralogical make-up had not been undertaken, until last year.
Using new scientific equipment, researchers were finally able to uncover the secrets of Blood Falls.
Materials scientist Ken Livi from Johns Hopkins University, who worked on the study, explained: "As soon as I looked at the microscope images, I noticed that there were these little nanospheres and they were iron-rich."
The teeny particles, which are a hundredth of the size of human red blood cells, were found to have come from ancient microbes and were found to be abundant in the meltwaters of Taylor Glacier.
The tiny particles - or nanospheres - contain silicon, calcium, aluminium, and sodium, as well as iron, and this specific make up is what is partly responsible for turning the water red as it slips off the glacier and finds sunlight, oxygen and warmth for the first time in a very long time.
Livi explained: "In order to be a mineral, atoms must be arranged in a very specific, crystalline, structure.
"These nanospheres aren't crystalline, so the methods previously used to examine the solids did not detect them."
The glacier is home to an ancient microbial community hundreds of meters under its ice, which has evolved over centuries - meaning it can provide useful insights for astrobiologists, hoping to discover hidden life forms on other planets.
The study also suggested that even if there is life on other planets - such as Mars - humans won’t be able to detect it unless they have the correct equipment.
Livi said: "Our work has revealed that the analysis conducted by rover vehicles is incomplete in determining the true nature of environmental materials on planet surfaces.
"This is especially true for colder planets like Mars, where the materials formed may be nanosized and non-crystalline. Consequently, our methods for identifying these materials are inadequate."