Now a desolate red desert, a new study has claimed that Mars was once, in fact, mainly blue.
While scientists have long agreed that our red neighbor once held water, how much water it held was a matter of debate.
Now, a new study has shown that 4.5 billion years ago, Mars was covered by 984 feet (300 meters) deep oceans.
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen hope that the results can bring humanity one step closer to answering an important question: has Mars ever had life?
A new study claims that Mars was covered by 984-foot-deep oceans 4.5 billion years ago
A meteoroid impact crater created on December 24, 2021 in the Amazonis Planitia region of Mars
Evidence that Mars once held water
Spirit and Opportunity, NASA’s twin rovers, found evidence of the existence of water encased in rocks in 2007, when one of Spirit’s wheels broke and a piece of rock erupted.
Analysis of the silica-rich layer discovered in the scratch suggested that it formed in the presence of liquid water.
In 2008, the Phoenix lander collected geological samples and they disappeared after a few days.
Scientists thought these were chunks of ice. This assessment was confirmed when the lander later detected water vapor in a sample.
In 2012, Curiosity meandered across an ancient Martian sea floor as it examined a number of rocks that were exposed to liquid water billions of years ago.
The study estimates that the oceans covered the entire planet and could have ranged anywhere from 984 feet (300 meters) to 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) deep.
Given that the planet is about half the size of Earth, Professor Martin Bizzarro, from the Center for Star and Planet Formation, says that by comparison there is actually very little water on our planet.
This water was brought to Mars by asteroids filled with ice, according to Professor Bizzarro.
In addition to water, the icy asteroids also brought biologically relevant molecules such as amino acids to Mars.
Amino acids are used when DNA and RNA form bases that contain everything a cell needs.
Professor Bizzarro explained: “This happened in the first 100 million years of Mars.
“After this period, something catastrophic happened to potential life on Earth.
“It is believed that there was a giant collision between Earth and another planet the size of Mars.
“It was an energetic collision that formed the Earth-Moon system and simultaneously wiped out all potential life on Earth.”
To reach these conclusions, the researchers studied a meteorite that is billions of years old.
Speaking to MailOnline, Professor Bizzarro explained that the meteorite was formed 4.5 billion years ago and is now “a fragment of the original crust of Mars.”
“Therefore, it records the planet’s bombardment history,” he explained.
Billions of years ago, Mars was hit by asteroids filled with ice and critical organic matter
Unlike Earth, Mars does not have tectonic plates deep beneath its surface, as the fiery molten rock has long cooled to form a rocky mantle.
As a result, scientists note that the Earth’s crust remains static, keeping the planet’s surface unchanged.
This allows them to study Mars’ past in a way that would be impossible to do on Earth.
Professor Bizzarro added: ‘Plate tectonics on Earth erased all evidence of what happened in the first 500 million years of our planet’s history.
“The plates are constantly moving and being recycled and destroyed into the interior of our planet.
“In contrast, Mars has no plate tectonics so the planet’s surface preserves a record of the planet’s earliest history.”
The new study comes shortly after experts claimed ancient microbes could survive for hundreds of millions of years beneath the Martian surface in “suspended animation”.
Scientists say a bacterium called Deinococcus radiodurans could survive 280 million years on Mars — nearly 300 times longer than previously thought — if buried 32 feet below the Red Planet’s surface.
D. radiodurans is also known as “Conan the Bacterium” and a “superhero of the bacterial world” due to its toughness, which has even earned it the title of “world’s toughest known bacterium” in the Guinness Book of Records.
Like a muscle-bound movie hero, it can withstand the onslaught of acid baths, high and low temperatures, and even doses of radiation.
Although the bacterium Conan is unlikely to exist on Mars, the researchers believe that an equivalent microorganism may have existed on the Red Planet for a similar period of time.
NASA’S MARS CURIOSITY ROVER LAUNCHED IN 2011 AND HAS IMPROVED OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE RED PLANET
The Mars Curiosity rover was originally launched from Cape Canaveral, a US Air Force base in Florida on November 26, 2011.
After beginning a journey of 350 million miles (560 million km), the £1.8 billion ($2.5 billion) research vehicle touched down just 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the earmarked landing site.
After a successful landing on August 5, 2012, the rover has traveled about 11 miles (18 km).
It was launched on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft and the rover accounted for 23 percent of the mass of the total mission.
With 80 kg (180 lb) of scientific instruments on board, the rover weighs a total of 899 kg (1,982 lb) and is powered by a plutonium fuel source.
The rover is 2.9 meters (9.5 ft) long by 2.7 meters (8.9 ft) wide and 2.2 meters (7.2 ft) high.
Originally intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer whether the planet could support life, have liquid water, study the climate and geology of Mars, the Mars Curiosity rover has since been active for more than 2,000 days
The rover was originally intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer whether the planet could support life, have liquid water, study the climate and geology of Mars.
Due to its success, the mission has been extended indefinitely and has now been active for over 3,500 days.
The rover has several scientific instruments on board, including the mast camera, which consists of two cameras and can take high-resolution images and movies in true color.
So far on the car-sized robot’s journey, it has encountered an ancient stream where liquid water used to flow, not long after it also discovered that billions of years ago, a nearby area known as Yellowknife Bay was part of a lake that could have supported microbial life.
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