Maybe Mars had 'warm' water after all
UK boffins point to meteorite evidence
UK researchers have unearthed a new argument in the yes-but-no-but-yes scientific debate about Martian water, saying that meteorite samples suggest water on the red planet was once warm enough for life.
In research published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters (abstract here), Dr John Bridges (Leicester University) and Dr Susanne Schwenzer (Open University) say structures found in a group of meteorites of Martian origin called nakhlites.
“This group of Martian meteorites contains small veins, which are filled with minerals formed by the action of water near the surface of Mars,” Dr Bridges says.
Examination of the “Lafayette nakhlite”, Dr Bridges says, reveals carbonates which would have formed by water rich in carbon dioxide at around 150°C, which later cooled to 50°C, at which point clays formed.
The structures in the nakhlites may have been caused by heat resulting from an impact on the surface of the planet, Dr Bridges states.
The Open University conducted modelling based on Dr Bridges’ observations, and these models suggest that subsurface water had both the right temperatures and nutrients to support microbial life. As the abstract states (in a lot more words):
“Our results show that environments associated with this type of fluid were habitable, unlike those associated with acid-sulphate fluids. Considering the timing of the nakhlite alteration, the most likely cause is impact-generated hydrothermal alteration of the nakhlite pile at the margins of an impact crater. The martian subsurface fluid forming phyllosilicates provided habitable temperatures and many of the nutrients required for life.” ®
Not going to get life from that.
The water was warm, full of nutrients, but the warmth was generated by an impact... so the water would have cooled to below "goldilocks" in a very short time after the impact. I'm guessing days or even hours. Much too quick for life to take hold.
Until we understand how self replicating chemical systems occur
- ie life - then any estimates on whether life could or couldn't have occured on mars or anywhere else in the universe is just complete speculation. For all we know life on earth may be the only example in the universe due to some incredibly unlikely occurance happening in the proto earth chemical soup.
Either way , earth had huge deep oceans which were around for billions of years for this to occur in. Mars at best had a few warm shallow seas which didn't hang around for very so frankly if any life is disovered on mars that didn't hitch a ride on a meteorite from earth then I'll be amazed. My gut feeling is its a sterile desert planet and always has been.
So; if we get in a time machine, travel to Mars. Await a known meteorite impact, then we can have a Martian bath.
But what, I wonder makes us turn green?