Ancient lake on Mars harboured diverse microbial life

06 Juin, 2017, 10:19 | Author: Come Portier
  • Microbial life on Mars? Ancient lake on Red Planet shows evidence of existence

NIU professor Wei Luo says Mars had ten times more water than previous studies have indicated. While the shallow water of the lake was richer in oxidants, the deeper water sources were less affluent. A study of mudstones in Gale crater shows that the lake that once resided there was split into distinct layers: one closer to the water's edges and surface, and another deeper down.

In this study, the researchers, led by geoscientist Joel Hurowitz at Stoney Brook University, analyzed the mudstones that Curiosity gathered during its first 1,300 Martian days (one Martian day is the equivalent of 24 hours and 37 minutes) to profile the ancient lake.

Mars used to look like Earth with oceans, lakes, running rivers and rainfull, research suggests. "The diversity of environments in this Martian lake would have provided multiple opportunities for different types of microbes to survive, including those that thrive in oxidant-rich conditions, those that thrive in oxidant-poor conditions, and those that inhabit the interface between those settings".

You'd think NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has seen everything there is to see on the Martian surface in the 11 years it's orbited our nearest neighbour, but a snapshot taken over the planet's South Pole has revealed something we can't explain.

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"That means water must have recycled through the valley systems on Mars many times, and a large open body of water or ocean is needed to facilitate such active cycling", Luo said.

The primary goal of NASA's Curiosity rover mission is to explore and quantitatively assess a local region on Mars' surface as a potential habitat for past or present life.

"This is a new level of detail in terms of our understanding of the chemical environment in this lake on Mars", Hurowitz added. Gale crater was selected as the landing site for Curiosity; it hosts a ~5-km-tall mountain of layered sedimentary rock. The rover, like a robot on wheels and equipped like a Swiss Army knife, has also drilled into the sediment on the crater's walls, to grab samples for study.

Along with realization of the chemical environments of the lake, the researchers also noticed the changes in climate of Mars, informs Tech Times. Scientists asked themselves: How much water did it take to erode the planet's 3-billion-year-old valleys? All such age-old questions are going to be answered soon, as one of NASA's most powerful Martian rovers has detected the evidence of microbe presence on Martian surface.

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