We know that Mars used to be much wetter than it is now, but the question of when water formed and evaporated is much harder to answer.
A new study now shows that water was present on the Red Planet about 4.4 billion years ago, much earlier than previously thought.
That’s based on analysis of a meteorite called NWA 7533, picked up in the Sahara desert and thought to have originated on Mars billions of years ago. The oxidation of some minerals inside asteroid indicates the presence of water.
This finding could push back the estimated water formation date on Mars about 700 million years, from a time frame of 3.7 billion years ago, which has been generally agreed to date. The study may also provide some insight into how planets form in the first place.
Planetary scientist Takashi Mikouchi from the University of Tokyo, Japan said: “I study the minerals in Mars meteorites to understand how Mars formed and its crust and mantle evolved.”; .
“This is my first investigation of this particular meteorite, nicknamed ‘Black Beauty’ because of its dark color. Our sample NWA 7533 has been subjected to four different types of spectroscopic analysis, chemical fingerprint detection methods. The results led our team to draw some interesting conclusions. “
Planetary scientists are very interested in the story of water on the planets and on the moon. One of the big unknowns is whether water was added to a planet after it formed, through the effects of asteroids and comets, or whether it occurred naturally during planet formation. or not.
Ancient rocks like the NWA 7533 can help scientists go back in time and find out, when they recorded events that impacted the planet they came from, while also capturing certain minerals and ingredients. chemistry of surfaces as they are formed.
In this case, oxidation is the hallmark of water. With certain debris inside the NWA 7533 dating back 4.4 billion years ago, that is the oldest record we have for Mars (which is probably why this one gram of asteroid might be). earn up to 10,000 USD).
“The Igneous rocks, or fragments, in meteorites are formed from magma and are often caused by oxidation and action,” said Mikouchi. “This oxidation could have occurred if water was present on or in Mars’ crust 4.4 billion years ago in a collision that partially melts the crust.”
Such early appearances suggest that water has indeed been around since Mars’ formation and that in turn played a key role in studying planet formation in general. Water has life, which is one reason scientists are so eager to follow it across the Universe. By comparison, we know that the earliest traces of life on Earth date back at least 3.5 billion years ago.
Close research on Mars continues as experts try to figure out when water was present and what it might be. A recent study has suggested that both liquid water and surface ice could exist on the Red Planet at the same time.
The team’s findings also suggest that the chemical makeup that makes up Mars’ atmosphere at this time – including high amounts of hydrogen – could make the planet warm enough for water to melt and life to exist, though The sun was younger and fainter during this period.
“Our analysis also showed that such an effect would release a lot of hydrogen, which contributes to the planet’s warming at a time when Mars already had a carbon-dense, insulating atmosphere,” said Mikouchi. dioxide.
Research has been published in Scientific advance.