The quest to find traces of life on Mars has been a long and mostly fruitless one. But if a recent discovery is to be believed, then scientists might finally have some conclusive evidence of the planet being home to life forms after all.
In a study published in the Journal of Geographical Research in Planets, scientists have revealed that traces of an ancient ocean have been discovered on the planet.
Using topography data accumulated by NASA’s Curiosity rover, researchers managed to discover evidence of a 3.5 billion-year-old shoreline, about 900m thick, which covered thousands of kilometres of area. The exciting discovery means that there is now a “higher potential for life” on the planet.
In the study, the researchers recorded that the planet experienced sea level rises that are consistent with a warm and wet climate, in complete contrast to the harsh and cold landscape that exists today.
Lead author of the study Benjamin Cardenas said, “It also tells us about the ancient climate and its evolution. Based on these findings, we know there had to have been a period when it was warm enough and the atmosphere was thick enough to support this much liquid water at one time.”
Scientists employed the geological technique called Stratigraphy to research this further. Stratigraphy is used to measure the changes on Earth. It is usually used to chart the history of waterways by looking at the sediment deposited over time.
On Mars, this led them to discover more than 6,500 km of river ridges that they sorted into 20 groups. The area with the densest collection of river ridges, called Aeolis Dorsa, is where they believe the ocean was.
“This is exactly the type of place where ancient Martian life could have evolved,” writes Cardenas.