Human society is super-stoked by the possibility of discovering evidence of an unknown life on Mars. So much so that we continue giving more complex technology, like NASA’s Perseverance Rover, to find evidence. But we may need to take a much closer look at the issue, a new study suggests.
The team of researchers led by Lujendra Ojha, a planetary scientist at Rutgers University, looked at the mystifying issue of Mars’ long-standing livability: the mystery of the faint young sun.
The sun may not have been the curvaceous ball of light and heat that we know today. “About four billion years ago, the sun was so much fainter so the climatic conditions of early Mars should’ve been freezing,” Rutgers said in a recent speech. That’s a bit strange since we also see a large number of water signs in the past of Mars.
Analysis in recent years has indicated the long-standing presence of liquid water on the Martian surface and also the existence of wild mega-floods.
If it was warm and moist, Mars may have been suitable for microbial life. But how are we going to get melted water with a faint young sun? The paper by Ojha and his associates, published today in Science Advances, addresses this issue. “I and my co-authors propose that the faint young sun paradox may be reconciled, at least partly, if Mars had high geothermal heat in its past,” Ojha said. This is a process seen on Planet where rotting elements generate heat that can break down ice sheets. If Mars had similar conditions, this may clarify liquid water despite the faint light.
The study indicates that ancient Mars would have been ripe for this kind of combustion action 4 billion years ago, but the surface of the planet would not have remained very friendly to liquid water due to a thin atmosphere and progressively chillier temperatures. “Therefore, life, if it ever originated on Mars, may have followed liquid water to progressively greater depths,” Rutgers said. “At such depths, life could have been sustained by hydrothermal (heating) operation and rock-water reactions,” said Ojha. “So the subsurface may represent the longest-lived habitable environment on Mars.”
Our understanding of Mars and its water lineage has been expanding with a short film. Latest studies have indicated secret pools of brine beneath the Martian polar ice.
Rovers will strive to scour the Martian surface for signs of ancient life, but one day we will want to look deeper underneath the skin of the world to truly appreciate its history of habitable worlds.