Ancient mud cracks on Mars suggest Red Planet may have been more habitable than thought

Hexagon-tiled rock newly uncovered on Mars means that the Purple Planet underwent a repeated cycle of moist and dry spells for as much as tens of millions of years that might have supported the emergence of life, a brand new examine finds.

Though Mars is now chilly and dry, researchers have for many years discovered proof suggesting that the planet’s floor was as soon as lined with rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and maybe even seas and oceans. Since there’s life nearly in all places on Earth the place there’s water, these historical indicators of water on the Purple Planet elevate the likelihood that Mars was as soon as house to life — and would possibly host it nonetheless.

Nevertheless, earlier analysis prompt that dry spells could have additionally confirmed useful to the evolution of life. Natural compounds which will have fashioned in water throughout moist occasions may have concentrated collectively in dry occasions, supporting chemical reactions that might have led to the emergence of life on Mars.

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“On Earth, folks have run experiments which have proven that when you topic a rock to cycles of moist and dry spells, easy natural molecules can mix and kind bigger molecules, reminiscent of proteins, and even RNA and DNA,” examine lead creator William Rapin, a analysis scientist on the French Nationwide Middle for Scientific Analysis in Toulouse, France, advised

Now, utilizing NASA’s Curiosity rover, scientists have found indicators that websites on early Mars underwent repeated biking between moist and dry occasions. “We now have for the primary time vestiges of occasions that might have been conducive to the origin of life,” Rapin mentioned.

Within the new examine, researchers centered on 3.6-billion-year-old rocks in Gale Crater, the place Curiosity landed in August 2012. “We have seen mud cracks earlier than, however the one at this location sometimes had T-shaped junctions,” Rapin mentioned. “This occurs when the mud dried as soon as and was fossilized in that state.”

In distinction, the scientists discovered mud cracks formed like hexagons, which originated from Y-shaped junctions. “That was actually thrilling to us — it was an surprising kind of rock, one thing we hadn’t seen on Mars earlier than,” Rapin mentioned.

The researchers prompt these are fossilized cracks from historical mud in a lakebed that usually went by means of cycles of moist and dry occasions, probably in a seasonal method. “This formation had some depth, which tells us this biking was sustained for a protracted interval, as much as tens of millions of years,” Rapin mentioned.


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Earlier analysis could not have detected such cracks as a result of these are delicate options liable to erosion. “Right here, they’re exceptionally preserved,” Rapin mentioned.

Curiosity discovered sulfate salts at this formation. “Now we are able to look elsewhere on Mars at websites with these chemical traces from the identical time to seek out indicators of those climates and environments,” Rapin mentioned.

All in all, “thus far, analysis has centered on the query of whether or not life arose on Mars, and now we are able to additionally search for traces of how would possibly life have arisen on Mars,” Rapin mentioned.

The scientists detailed their findings on-line Wednesday (Aug. 9) within the journal Nature.

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