Proof of life? Mars may once have been covered in water, study suggests

PIcture NASA

Mars may once have been far wetter than we imagined – lending weight to the idea that the Red Planet once supported life.

A new study found that a mineral – merellite – found in Martian meteorites may not be proof of a dry Mars at all.

Previously, researchers believed that the mineral might have hinted at an ancient, dry Mars – but researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) believe that it may have formed from another mineral (whitlockite) during the shock of ejection from Mars.

The presence of whitlockite may indicate a more water-rich history for the planet, according to the researchers – who simulated the effect using experiments at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS).

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‘This is important for deducing how much water could have been on Mars, and whether the water was from Mars itself rather than comets or meteorites,’ said Martin Kunz, a staff scientist at Berkeley Lab’s ALS.

‘If even a part of merrillite had been whitlockite before, it changes the water budget of Mars dramatically,’ said Oliver Tschauner of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).

‘The overarching question here is about water on Mars and its early history on Mars: Had there ever been an environment that enabled a generation of life on Mars?’