Mars once had warm water that may have supported life

Last Updated: Friday, November 16, 2012 - 19:08

Washington: Evidence of sufficiently warm water on Mars provides proof that the Red Planet could have supported life, a research suggests.

The study by the University of Leicester and The Open University, determined that water temperatures on the Red Planet ranged from 50°C to 150°C.

Microbes on Earth can live in similar waters, for example in the volcanic thermal springs at Yellowstone Park, the scientists behind the research pointed out.

The research is based on detailed scrutiny of Mars meteorites on Earth using powerful microscopes in the University of Leicester Department of Physics and Astronomy. This was followed-up by computer modeling work at The Open University.

Dr John Bridges, Reader in Planetary Science in the University of Leicester Space Research Centre and Lead Author, said: “Rovers on Mars – the Mars Exploration rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity – are studying rocks to find out about the geologic history of the Red Planet. Some of the most interesting questions are what we can find out about water, how much there was and what temperature it might have had.”

“While the orbiters and rovers are studying the minerals on Mars, we also have meteorites from Mars here on Earth. They come in three different groups, the shergottites, the nakhlites and the chassignites. Of most interest for the question of water on Mars are the nakhlites, because this group of Martian meteorites contains small veins, which are filled with minerals formed by the action of water near the surface of Mars,” he said.

Dr. Bridges and his group studied those alteration minerals in great detail.

Altogether eight nakhlite Martian meteorites are known, and all have small but significant differences between them and in their alteration minerals.

Dr Bridges added: “The mineralogical details we see tell us that there had been high carbon dioxide pressure in the veins to form the carbonates. Conditions then changed to less carbon dioxide in the fluid and clay minerals formed. We have a good understanding of the conditions minerals form in but to get to the details, chemical models are needed.”

By combining data from both universities, researchers were able to predict water conditions on Mars. Initially, the water was around 150°C and contained a lot of CO2, forming the carbonates, then cooled to about 50°C, thus forming the clays.

The findings have been published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

ANI



First Published: Friday, November 16, 2012 - 19:08

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