Study Suggests Mars Could Have Had Water More Than 4 Billion Years Ago
The surface of Mars is a rocky, barren wasteland, but a new study suggests that things haven’t always been that way.
Analysis of a pair of meteorites discovered in the Sahara Desert several years ago appear to have provided the proof scientists have been looking for – that water may indeed have formed naturally on Mars.
The meteorites are believed to be fragments of the red planet, and now scientists say one of the meteorites – nicknamed ‘Black Beauty’ – contains mineral substances that suggest water was naturally occurring on Mars at the time of the meteorites’ formation more than four billion years ago.
The rocks in question are the oldest known Martian meteorites, and are estimated to be worth up to an eyewatering $10,000 per gram.
Their scientific value, however, is priceless, as the fragments look to have provided valuable evidence that water has been present on Mars for far longer than was previously thought.
Planetary scientists have long known that water has occurred on Mars for 3.7 billion years, but mineral analysis conducted by an international team has confirmed that water was actually present at least 4.4 billion years ago.
As per Metro, the team used spectroscopic analysis of samples taken from the rock to detect the ‘chemical fingerprints’ of the meteorites.
Professor Takashi Mikouchi of the University of Tokyo, who participated in the analysis, said:
The results led our team to draw some exciting conclusions. Igneous clasts, or fragmented rock, in the meteorite are formed from magma and are commonly caused by impacts and oxidation.
This oxidation could have occurred if there was water present on or in the Martian crust 4.4 billion years ago during an impact that melted part of the crust.
Researchers have previously considered the possibility that water found on planets and satellites comes from asteroids and comets that landed post-formation, but this new analysis suggests otherwise. The meteorites support a second theory; that water could be a natural by-product created during the early stages of planet formation.
For scientists, then, the meteorites may well raise as many questions as they answer, and could change our understanding of where water comes from, how life originates, and whether there is life beyond Earth.
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