New study: Mars may have hosted life for a billion years longer than thought

According to researchers, the study of ancient lakes on Mars has offered them valuable information about the long history of Mars. A new study suggests that the red planet hosted life for a BILLION years longer than previously thought.

Experts say that one specific lake on Mars contained some 2,790 cubic kilometers of water, which is more than in Lake Ontario of North Americas Great Lakes.

© NASA/JPL/University of Arizona / Flickr
An image of the surface of Mars a seen from space. © NASA/JPL/University of Arizona / Flickr

While it is well known that in the distant past, Mars was covered by vast oceans and lakes, our understand as to when the red planet became arid and ‘dry’ as we see it today just changed completely thanks to a new research.

Previously, experts believed that Mars’ so-called wet era happened some 4 billion years ago, when on Earth, single-celled life was developing.

Now, a new study changes EVERYTHING we thought we knew about Mars as researchers have fund evidence which indicates the planet was COVERED in networks of lakes as streams for a BILLION years after that.

What does this mean? Well, it means that Mars MAY have hosted LIFE for a billion years longer than we previously thought possible.

The new evidence was found after NASA experts studied 22 impact craters on the surface of the red planet.

Sharon Wilson from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington said: “We discovered valleys that carried water into lake basins. Several lake basins filled and overflowed, indicating there was a considerable amount of water on the landscape during this time.”

Valleys much younger than well-known ancient valley networks on Mars are evident near the informally named “Heart Lake” on Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Wilson and her colleagues came across these prominent features in a region called Arabia Terra. Experts studied images from cameras taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

However, NASA used data from its Mars Global Surveyor and the European Space Agency’s Mars Express.

Speaking about the fascinating discovery on Mars, Ms. Wilson said ‘One of the lakes in this region was comparable in volume to Lake Tahoe.’

‘This particular Martian lake was fed by an inlet valley on its southern edge and overflowed along its northern margin, carrying water downstream into a very large, water-filled basin we nicknamed “Heart Lake.”‘

Heart Lake on Mars

The chain of lakes and valleys in the Heart Lake valley system extend for about 90 miles (about 150 km). Heart Lake held about 670 cubic miles of water (2,790 cubic km), more than in Lake Ontario of North America’s Great Lakes

Experts have concluded that the system of Lakes and Valley in the Heart Lake Valley may have extended around 150 kilometers.

It is believed that Hearth Lake contained some 2,790 cubic kilometers of water, which is more than in Lake Ontario of North Americas Great Lakes.

The study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets and maps the extent of the stream-flow in ‘fresh shallow valleys.’

In order to find out whether the valley on Mars was younger or older, researchers estimated the age of 22 impact craters located in the area.

Experts looked into whether or not the valleys which were carved into the blankets of surrounding debris ejected from the craters, a tell-tale sign of whether the valleys were younger or older than the impact craters.

Scientists concluded that the WET PERIOD ON MARS occurred some two or three billion years ago.

Yeah, a long time ago but still significant since is it long after this that researchers thought most of the red planet’s original atmosphere was lost and most of the water on Mars had frozen.

The valleys on Mars have offered many important details. One of them is that obtained data from the valleys indicate Mars was a cold planet with lakes and streams fed by melting snow.

“The rate at which water flowed through these valleys is consistent with runoff from melting snow,” Wilson said, “These weren’t rushing rivers. They have simple drainage patterns and did not form deep or complex systems like the ancient valley networks from early Mars.”

“A key goal for Mars exploration is to understand when and where liquid water was present in sufficient volume to alter the Martian surface and perhaps provide habitable environments,” said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Scientist Rich Zurek of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “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.”

Reference: Some Ancient Mars Lakes Came Long After Others

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