May 28, 2024

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If there was life on Mars, it might have held out longer than thought

If there was life on Mars, it might have held out longer than thought

It was believed that the lakes and rivers of Mars dried up about 3 billion years ago. But new analysis shows that Mars has been harboring water recently.

Although Mars today is a dry and barren place, we have known for some time that in the past liquid water flowed freely on the surface of Mars. This is generally believed to be the case until about 3 billion years ago. However, in a new study, researchers came to a surprising conclusion. Because Mars seems to have been harboring water lately. This means that there may have been a longer life, too.

Water on Mars
There are many signs on Mars indicating that large amounts of water once flowed over the planet. Think of the undulating earth lines visible from space, branches, and riverbeds. Researchers are very interested in this. Because wherever there was water, there might one day be life. For example, the lakes and rivers of Mars may have been potentially habitable environments for microbial life. However, as the planet’s atmosphere dwindled over time, all that water evaporated. What remains is the frozen desert world created by NASA… Mars reconnaissance vehicle (MRO) today.

In a new study, researchers looked at data collected from MRO over 15 years. The team makes a surprising discovery. As mentioned, the lakes and rivers of Mars were thought to have dried up about 3 billion years ago. But the researchers have now found new evidence to suggest that this didn’t happen until much later. For example, researchers have found relatively small salt deposits that were left when cold meltwaters of ice flowed across the landscape.

Image of NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter from Bosphorus Planum; region on Mars. The white dots are salt deposits in a dry channel. The largest impact crater at the site is about 1.5 kilometers wide. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

After analysis, these salt minerals appear to have been deposited about two billion years ago. And so it seems that liquid water can still be found on the Red Planet about 2 to 2.5 billion years ago.

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Researchers have discovered salt deposits – chloride salts to be exact – in the mud-rich highlands of the southern hemisphere of Mars. Here we find excavated terrain, characterized by archaeological craters. These craters were fundamental in establishing the history of the existing salts: the fewer craters in an area, the smaller they were. By counting the number of craters in an area of ​​its surface, scientists can estimate its age.

The discovery of remarkably young salt minerals is important for several reasons. Although we know from certain drawings in Martian landscapes that water once flowed over Mars, the salt deposits provide the first mineral evidence confirming the presence of water.

Mars life
In addition, the discovery raises new questions about possible microbial life on Mars. If water had been on Mars for a longer period, there would also have been more time for life to develop. This means that it may have lasted much longer than expected.

Research shows once again the invaluable value of aging in the meantime Mars reconnaissance vehicle Look, which arrived at the Red Planet in 2006. “Part of the value of MRO is that this instrument has made our view of the planet more and more detailed over time,” said study researcher Leslie Tambari. “The more we map the planet with our tools, the better we understand its history.”