Mars may have seen dry and wet seasonal cycles and thus, according to scientists, may have been habitable at some point in its past.
Analysis of soil crack patterns on the early surface of Mars observed by NASA’s Curiosity rover suggests that water was an irregular or episodic presence, meaning water may have been present for a period of time and then evaporated.
Scientists from France, the United States and Canada said in their study that the process may have repeated itself until soil cracks formed.
„These amazing observations of mature soil cracks allow us to fill in some of the missing water history on Mars. How did Mars go from a hot, wet planet to a cold, dry place as we know it today? „These soil cracks show us. „That intervening time, liquid water is still active on the Martian surface even though it’s low,” said Nina Lanza, principal investigator of the ChemCAM instrument on the Curiosity rover and one of the study’s authors.
On Earth, soil cracks initially assume a T-shape. However, subsequent wetting and drying cycles make these cracks increasingly Y-shaped.
The Y-shaped cracks in the mud on the surface of Mars, therefore, mean that the Red Planet experienced wet-dry cycles, the scientists said in a study published in the journal Nature.
Also, these cracks were only a few centimeters deep, they said, suggesting that these wet-dry cycles could have been seasonal or occurred as quickly as flash floods.
These findings point to the possibility that Mars once had a wet Earth-like climate and that Mars may have been able to support life at one point.
„(The wet-dry cycles create) the right organic molecules in this place, the perfect place to make the polymeric molecules necessary for life, including proteins and RNA,” said Patrick Costa, co-author of the paper.
„The wet periods bring the molecules together, while the dry periods cause the reactions to form polymers. When these processes are repeated in the same place, there is an increased chance of forming more complex molecules,” Costa said.
„These features indicate that Earth has wet-dry environments that are highly conducive to the growth of organic molecules and potential life. Taken as a whole, these results paint a clear picture of Mars as a habitable world,” Lanza said. .
(Other than the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)
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