Once upon a time astronomers believed the Earth to be the only planet capable of sustaining complex life for a number of reasons. One of the key reasons was the ample supply of water on our own planet. Now with evidence gathered from the red planet, there is ample evidence that Mars may have once had the same sort of water resources as our own planet located deep underground in the Martian mantle. Is this an indicator that life could have developed on Mars just like Earth?
The meteorites, analyzed by former postdoctoral scientists from the University of New Mexico and published in the journal Geology suggest that two meteorites which arrived on Earth sometime around the lower Paleolithic period (roughly 2.5 million years ago) were not only from Mars but actually contained a significant amount of water. The meteors, which were analyzed extensively by the scientists showed quite a bit of evidence of water in amounts comparable to Earth in some areas. And if this simple cross section has water, there may be larger reservoirs in certain areas much like the massive subterranean ocean discovered by seismologists at Washington University in St. Louis in 2007.
The Martian meteorites had upwards of 300 parts per million water content which compares favorably with Earth's. This is far different from previous theories about the red planet which suggests that one of the key elements for forming and sustaining life may have actually been on Mars' surface millions of years ago. If during this time life had developed, it may have died off during subsequent periods when the liquid water froze or dispersed.
The head scientist analyzing the water, Francis McCubbin suggested that this, coupled with other evidence suggesting substantial liquid water on the surface of the red planet suggests that during its geologically active periods, volcanoes may have played a key role in providing the surface with water.
This isn't the first time Mars has showed evidence of water or even life. The famous Martian asteroid Allan Hills 84001 (ALH84001) recovered in 1984 by the ANSMET project showed significant structures on the interior that were thought to potentially be biogenic in nature. As the controversy over this asteroid still rages on with a 2009 study indicating strongly that the structures in the meteorite could very well have been biological in origin. The study, conducted by scientists at the Johnston Space Center indicated that life may have once existed on Mars even if only in its simplest form.
If life evolved on Mars naturally, what does this say for us today? If these studies proved to be accurate, then the portrayal of Mars as a dead dry lifeless planet may require some updating. If the structures are capable of sustaining life, then it could rekindle further explorations out to the red planet to try to determine if humans are alone in the universe. Even a million year old sample indicating the simplest forms of life would go a long way toward suggesting more complex organisms and their potential evolution throughout the span of time.
This latest study showing a watery history on Mars shows that we may not in fact be alone in the universe. So if it's out there, perhaps it is somewhere around here visiting as well - whether it be on a mysterious flying vessel manned by intelligent creatures or simply dropped on our planet in the form of a simple unassuming space rock.
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