WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Mars may be a dry planet but geological findings in a new study revealed that it once had a massive groundwater system, with the presence of minerals linked to evidence of life.
- The water systems stayed connected to other regions even with plate boundaries because Mars has only one plate, says the study.
- Minerals such as carbonates and silicates were also found in the craters giving proof that alien life may have existed billions of years ago.
Mars is a dry, dusty planet with a bit of frozen water at its poles. But its geology indicates that the Red Planet was once a watery world, sufficient enough to possibly host alien life.
Now, two Martian probes had first founded geological evidence that underground lakes and rivers had once pocked Mars’ subsurface with the possibility of an existence of an interconnected groundwater system, according to a new study.
In a press release, lead author Francesco Salese of Utrecht University revealed to have found traces of water in the planet in their study.
Although models from previous studies have shown that Mars likely had regional aquifers at one time, Yasmin Tayag at Inverse reports that this study is the first to offer evidence.
Attributes found by the team on the crater floors which they believe to be shaped by rising and falling groundwater, terraces caused by standing water, and valleys made by water flowing out of the craters were based from the 24 images captured by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express probe and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, of deep, enclosed craters in the planet’s northern hemisphere.
The researchers believe these craters were once interlinked 3 to 4 billion years ago due to those features occurring at roughly 13,000 to 16,000 feet below the arbitrary Martian “sea level”.
Salese tells Tayag that because of Mars being a ‘one-plate planet’, its huge subsurface water system differs from Earth. While there are seven major tectonic plates and several minor others on Earth, Mars has only one. Meaning, even with plate boundaries, the groundwater system of the planet could be interconnected without being disconnected from other regions.
Another major study finding gives evidence that life once existed on Mars. In five of the craters studied, they discovered the presence of certain clays, carbonates and silicates buried very deeply within the basins. Even as the rest of the planet dried out, the team believed that these minerals have been soaked in Martian groundwater for a long time, enough for life to persist.
“Findings like these help us to identify the regions of Mars that are the most promising for finding signs of past life,” says Dmitri Titov, ESA’s Mars Express project scientist.
Despite other scientists not agreeing with the evidence shown from the images, there is substantial evidence that a significant amount of water may still remain on the planet.
Findings are published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.