A new study suggests that ancient water on Mars was similar to Earth’s modern oceans.
As of now, Earth is the only known place where life is known to exist in the Universe.
This year the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to three scientists who confirmed, approximately 20 years ago, that planets are frequent around distant suns in star systems beyond ours. As of January 18, 2020, there are 4,108 confirmed exoplanets.
Life, as we know and understand it today comes in various forms; from cell-phone-toting organisms like human beings to the omnipresent micro-organisms that inhabit almost every square inch of our world, affecting nearly everything that occurs on it.
Despite the fact that experts believe it will likely be some time before it is achievable to measure or detect life beyond our Solar System, there are places in our immediate cosmic neighborhood that may be the best place to star.
Of various possible locations, Mars, our neighboring planet—is on the top list for several reasons.
The most important reasons as to why Mars is priority one is that the red planet is located relatively close to our planet, compared to other places in the solar system like the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, which are also considered excellent candidates to possibly host life as we know it.
In addition to that, Mars is actually easy to observe. Since it lacks a thick atmosphere like other planets such as Venus, we can have a good idea of what the world is like. So far, we’ve found some pretty convincing evidence that the surface of Mars and temperatures is just around the point where liquid water—one of the most important ingredients for life as we know it—can actually exist.
There is also sufficient evidence in the form of visible river deltas, and more recent studies made on Mars’ surface, that liquid water existed on the red planet billions of years ago.
This why scientists have become pretty convinced that in the distant past, our neighboring planet ay, in fact, have been habitable.
Despite the evidence, it remains highly debated whether Mars was, or still is inhabited.
To solve the enigmas surround whether or not there’s (was) life on Mars, scientists are trying to understand the kinds of water chemistry that could have created the minerals inspected on Mars today, which were created billions of years ago on a planet that was much different for the one we see today.
As revealed in a recent study published in Nature Communications, Salinity (how much salt was present), pH (a measure of how acidic the water was), and redox state (roughly a measure of the abundance of gases such as hydrogen are crucial properties of natural waters). As an example, our planet’s contemporary atmosphere is highly oxygenated. however, if we were to dig into the bottom of a beach or lake on Earth today, we would find traces of environments with very different measurements.
That’s precisely what we did, and are still doing on Mars. Thanks to the various rovers currently exploring the red planet (one example is the Curiosity Rover), we are able to study the environment on Mars today, and see what the red planet hides beneath its surface.
By studying the surface and the layers just beneath, we can obtain clues about Mars’ early habitability.
The properties of pore water inside sediments apparently deposited in lakes in Gale Crater on Mars indicate these deposits formed in the presence of liquid water which was of a pH close to that of Earth’s modern oceans.
Earth’s oceans are inhabited by countless different forms of lime. It is therefore compelling to understand that Mars’ early surface environment was a place where Life, as we have on Earth, may have lived.
Why it is so difficult to find traces of past life on Mars remains an enigma, although future missions to the surface of the red planet may help reveal whether or not there’s life on Mars, whether it exists beneath the surface, and to what extent it existed, and what happened to it.