According to a new study, our neighboring planet –Mars– may have been inhabited even before Earth, as scientists work to rearrange the history of the red planet, arguing it was an oasis for life as we know it, some 4.2 billion years ago.
Researchers have recently rearranged the timeline of the history of Mars, and claim it may have been home to life even before our planet met the necessary conditions for life to come into existence.
A new study has rearranged the timeline of when the red planet was stopped being bombarded by meteorites, arguing that life as we know it may have existed o the surface of Mars between 4.2 billion and 3.5 billion years ago.
If true, it would predate when our planet was inhabited by living organisms by approximately 500 million years.
Birth of planets
The planets were formed, like most of the inner solar system, around 4.5 billion years ago, in what is believed to have been a chaotic environment where violent collisions and meteorites were the order of the day.
Eventually, the violent era of the solar system was replaced by a calmer period and the impacts of the so-called “late heavy bombardment” ceased, which allowed life to have an opportunity on planets like Mars and Earth.
The end of the late intense bombardment has been much debated, so a recent study by the University of Western Ontario, Canada, analyzed fragments of meteorites believed to have originated in the southern highlands of Mars.
The fragments were once part of the red planet, but they ended up on Earth after violent collisions catapulted fragments of mars to Earth.
So far, we’ve uncovered 120 such samples on the planet.
Experts eventually studied the samples at a near-atomic level which gave them the opportunity to see a sort of snapshot of what the surface of Mars was like billions of years ago.
And interestingly, upon analysis scientists noticed the samples did not show the telltale signs of rocks that were submitted to massive meteor strikes.
Rocks exposed to massive meteorites strikes show high temperatures and pressures.
This means that the rocks studied by researchers formed in a time when the massive cosmic bombardment stopped.
Scientists managed to date the rocks using the slow decay of uranium into lead in the samples.
Speaking to New Scientist, Dr. Desmond Moser explained:
“We found none of these bombardment signatures in the Mars zircon and baddeleyite grains.”
“We know there was a giant impact on Mars, but it has to be older than 4.48 billion years ago. The implication is that there could have been platform hosting life as much as half a billion years earlier than previously thought it was possible in the inner solar system,” Dr. Moser added.
Researchers argue that as the bombardment stopped, the Martian surface would have become habitable by the time it is believed that water was abundant there.
“Giant meteorite impacts on Mars between 4.2 and 3.5 billion years ago may have actually accelerated the release of early waters from the interior of the planet setting the stage for life-forming reactions,” revealed Dr. Moser.
“This work may point out good places to get samples returned from Mars.”