Mars May Have Been Wetter Than Previously Thought

Posted: Mar 6 2017, 9:57pm CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Mars May Have Been Wetter Than Previously Thought
An impact crater on Mars, named Melas Dorsa, and its surroundings show a rich geologic history. The image was created by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express. Studies of the transformation of a synthetic version of a mineral known as whitlockite suggest that Mars had a more water-rich past than previously thought. (Credit: G. Neukum/ESA,DLR, FU Berlin)
  • New evidence for a water-rich history on Mars

The history of the Red Planet shows us that it was a very wet world with water abundantly available. This was furthermore a world where life probably existed way back in the past.

Mars used to be a wet place in the distant past as recent studies have shown. If its meteorites are any clue to go by, such was indeed the situation eons ago on the Red Planet.

A mineral found in the meteorites that crash on earth from Mars shows water was available in scads on the Martian landscape in early times. It was wrongly supposed that in its history, Mars had a dry and arid landscape.

A synthetic version of whitlockite was made by scientists. This is a hydrogen-containing mineral found in Martian meteorites. Shock-compression experiments were carried out to simulate the situation on the planet in the earliest times.

Using X-rays, it was shown that whitlockite became dehydrated from the shocks it underwent. Thus it underwent changes to become merrillite. The question before the scientists was whether the water in the past was a part of Mars or its meteorites that crashed on the earth.

The changeover of the whitlockite into merrillite probably affected the water budget of Mars. This took place in a radical manner. Furthermore, whitlockite dissolves in water and has phosphorus in it.

Thus the chances of life forms thriving on Mars billions of years ago is not such a far-fetched idea. The environment was definitely one that encouraged the proliferation of primitive life.

The experiments that the researchers carried out though very fine-tuned, only give us a brief glimpse into the conditions that were extant in the early days of the planet. What happened in reality was probably far more complex.

The interchange of whitlockite and merrillite was studied thoroughly by the researchers. Besides X-rays, infrared light was also used in the experiment.

Meteorites on earth from Mars date back to 150 to 586 million years ago in the past. They are an object lesson in the conditions that prevailed so long ago in the history of the solar system.

The rock composition is such that it shows proof of the vast impacts undergone in that crucible of geology. Mars coalesced some 4.6 billion years ago.

The truth regarding what occurred then is probably stranger than fiction. What seems to us a dead and cold world today was probably a sweltering planet of life forms way back then.

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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