In a recent study published in the scientific journal Geology, chloride deposits near Meridiani Planum — a “lake” on the surface of Mars — are detailed. The three scientists behind the study, all affiliated with the University of Colorado–Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, put together what they believe to be a likely narrative of the history of water in the location of the martian lake, which happens to be just beyond the Opportunity rover’s driving range. The study’s authors endeavored to explain how the lake was created through a ponding process and eventually flowed out after its elevation exceeded the drainage divide.
The scientist trio studied images captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to draw conclusions, according to an Examiner report. The researchers noted that Meridiani Planum is one of the youngest Martian lakes and therefore would potentially carry in its remains some of the most reliable evidence that water and life had once existed on Earth’s next-door neighbor.
Lead author of the research, Brian Hynek, noted in a report on Business Insider that “there was life on Earth when this lake was active so by that analogy, we can say there’s potential that Mars had microbial life and this was a great place where it could have resided.”
There was life on Earth when this lake was active so by that analogy, we can say there’s potential that Mars had microbial life and this was a great place where it could have resided.
As Mars’ atmosphere dissipated into space over the course of millions of years, the pressure and heat required for keeping water in liquid form evaded the red planet. This caused a receding of water bodies to the poles of the planet, resulting in ice caps.
Hynek still has several questions concerning the historical narrative of water on Mars’ surface. He wonders whether volcanic eruptions or the impact of an asteroid or comet influenced the course of water history. Even if some of the details concerning the presence of water and potential of Martian life can be clarified through further research, we still may not be much closer to knowing exactly what kind of life forms were once present on the planet, according to Hynek in a CBS News report.
Perhaps a future human delegation to Mars will shed some light upon these matters.