Feeds

NASA finds Mars slightly less inhospitable

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

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
The total economic impact of Druva inSync
Examining the ROI enterprises may realize by implementing inSync, as they look to improve backup and recovery of endpoint data in a cost-effective manner.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
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?
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.