Image Credit: YouTube / NASA
It now appears as though Mars would have been able to support life for longer than is generally believed.
Mars might be a freezing, desolate place today, but in the planet’s distant past the conditions were thought to be sufficiently wet and warm enough for primitive life forms to have survived there.
Now scientists believe that Mars may have even been home to newly formed streams and lakes as recently as two billion years ago – a time by which it had been generally thought that the planet had already lost its atmosphere and was too cold for liquid water to still exist on its surface.
If these findings, which were based on images from three separate Mars orbiters, turn out to be accurate then it would mean that life could have potentially existed there for up to a billion years longer than scientists had previously thought possible.
“This paper presents evidence for episodes of water modifying the surface on early Mars for possibly several hundred million years later than previously thought, with some implication that the water was emplaced by snow, not rain,” said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter scientist Rich Zurek.
The researchers were able to date these later bodies of water by looking for evidence of water erosion within impact craters on the planet’s surface.
“We discovered valleys that carried water into lake basins,” said study leader Sharon Wilson of the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Virginia. “Several lake basins filled and overflowed, indicating there was a considerable amount of water on the landscape during this time.”
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