Feeds

NASA finds Mars slightly less inhospitable

There was life, maybe. In one bit. A really long time ago

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

NASA boffins believe they have found evidence suggesting that Mars may not have been barren and lifeless for its entire history.

"We have found evidence that not all of Mars experienced an intense, acidic weathering environment 3.5 billion years ago, as has been proposed," said Bethany Ehlmann of Brown University. "We've found at least one region that was potentially more hospitable to life."

Ehlmann is one of the scientists analysing data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) above the Red Planet. In this case, the information comes from an instrument on the orbiter called CRISM, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars.

Some scientists had theorised that Mars has had a highly acidic environment for the last three billion years and more, meaning that life would have had a hard time coming into being. But now Ehlmann and her colleagues have used CRISM pictures to detect carbonate minerals in the neighbourhood of the Isidis crater.

If Mars had been acidic and lifeless for billions of years, as had been thought, these carbonates should have dissolved long ago. As the NASA boffins see it, their presence now means that there must have been watery environments present in the past, which would have been much more likely to sustain life. If there was any.

Truly massive amounts of carbonate would indicate that Mars once had a much thicker atmosphere, according to the scientists, but they don't think their finds are in that league.

"The carbonates that CRISM has observed are regional rather than global in nature," says Ehlmann.

"We have not found the types of carbonate deposits which might have trapped an ancient atmosphere."

According to NASA, the newly-mapped carbonate deposits could indicate places where future landers and rovers might profitably be sent to seek evidence of past life on Mars. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.