New study reveals presence of water on Mars when life was germinating on Earth


Team Udayavani, Nov 9, 2020, 3:14 PM IST

New Delhi: New evidence that suggests that Mars may have had water much earlier than anticipated.

Scientists came to this conclusion after two meteorites, NWA 7034 and NWA 7533, which originated from Mars and landed in the Sahara Desert, were found to have oxidised minerals in the Martian crust present on them, suggesting the presence of H2O.

According to the Science Advances article, the meteorites were formed about 4.4 billion years ago, around the same time life began to appear on Earth. The new date makes it the oldest Martian meteorite known to man. The meteorites, nicknamed ‘Black Beauty’ for their dark colour, push back the estimated date of water formation by 700 million years on Mars. Scientists had initially put their finger on the 3.7-billion-year mark.

The samples of NWA 7533 were subjected to four different kinds of spectroscopic analysis, a way to detect chemical fingerprints. The results showed that the fragmented rock in the meteorite is formed from magma and is commonly caused by impacts and oxidation. Oxidation is only possible if there is water around, the leading scientist Takashi Mikouchi said.

“Our analysis also suggests such an impact would have released a lot of hydrogen, which would have contributed to planetary warming at a time when mars already had a thick insulating atmosphere of carbon dioxide,” he added.

Mikouchi, who has been studying Martian materials to understand how the planet formed and its crust and mantle evolved, said that the presence of water on the Red Planet this early suggests that H2O is a natural byproduct of early planet formation.

This finding can answer questions around the origin of water, potentially affecting theories on the origin of life itself.

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