Today, Mars is colloquially referred to as the “Red Planet” because of its dry, dusty landscape rich in iron oxide (aka “rust”). Also, the atmosphere is very rare and cold, and water in any form other than ice cannot exist on the surface, universetoday.com reports .
But as the Martian landscape and other sources of evidence attest, Mars was once a very different place, with a hotter, denser atmosphere and running water on its surface.
For years, scientists have been trying to determine how long natural bodies have existed on Mars and whether they were fickle or permanent.
Another important question is how much water there once was on Mars and whether it was enough to sustain life. 4.5 billion years ago, there may have been enough water on Mars to cover it with a global ocean up to 300 meters deep, according to a new study by an international team of scientists. planetary scientists.
Together with organic molecules and other elements distributed throughout the solar system by asteroids and comets at that time, these conditions indicate, they believe, that Mars may have been the first planet in the solar system to harbor life.
Meteorites ejected from Mars billions of years ago offer a unique glimpse into what Mars was like shortly after the planets of the solar system formed. As study co-author Professor Bizzarro of the StarPlan Center said in a UCPH faculty press release:
“Plate tectonics on Earth have erased all evidence of what happened during the first 500 million years of our planet’s history. The plates are constantly moving and being recycled and destroyed inside our planet. In contrast, Mars has no plate tectonics, so the planet’s surface retains a record of the planet’s earliest history. »
In addition to water, asteroids also delivered organic molecules like amino acids (the building blocks of DNA, RNA, and protein cells) to Mars during the late heavy bombardment. As Bizarro explains, this means that life could have existed on Mars when the Earth was barren:
“It happened in the first 100 million years of Mars. After this period, something catastrophic happened to potential life on Earth. It is believed that there was a gigantic collision between Earth and another planet the size of Mars. It was an energetic collision that formed the Earth-Moon system and, at the same time, wiped out all potential life on Earth. »