Is there life on Mars? Has it ever happened? This is one of the biggest questions we have about our planetary neighbor; Now, research points to a particular part of the Red Planet that may have been capable of harboring life many times over billions of years.
Through an in-depth study of images captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, planetary scientists have identified soil-bearing sediments in the North Ladon Wallace, the Southern Ladon Basin and the Southwestern Highlands around the Ladon Basin – which are largely But the crater Margaritifer is part of the Terra region.
Soil points to the long-term presence of water, as it forms under neutral pH conditions with minimal water evaporation. The team thinks that water flowed here from about 3.8 billion years ago to about 2.5 billion years ago, which is a large part of Mars’ history.
“In addition, colored light-toned layered sediments that exhibit relatively low bed dip and are clays in 200 km [124 miles] There is evidence in the distance that a lake was most likely present within the Ladon Basin and North Ladon Wallace,” says Katherine Weitz, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona.
“The low-energy lake setting and the presence of soil support an environment that would have been conducive to life at the time.”
While this isn’t exactly evidence of life – we’d need to dig on Mars for fossils to really confirm it – it does suggest conditions that may have supported life. This is the latest piece of research to explain the conditions on Mars that we can observe about its surface and sediments.
Researchers believe that the soil originally formed around high ground above the Ladon Basin, which was carried downstream into the Ladon Basin and a lake in the northern Ladon Valles before being eroded by water channels.
According to the team, the most recent water flow may have been along the southwestern Ladon Basin. To the south of the area covered by this study, deposits here correspond to another part of Mars, the Eberswald Delta.
“Our results suggest that clay sediments deposited by running water in the Eberswalde were not uncommon in this recent time as we see many examples of similar young basins that deposited soil in the region,” says Weitz.
We know there is ice on Mars, but the search for liquid water continues. This latest study supports the idea that running water was once a widespread part of the Martian landscape – and it may have brought life with it.
How fleeting or otherwise the presence of water on Mars has been is crucial to finding out whether life could have been supported at some point. The distribution of soil and other rocks the researchers discovered is consistent with water sticking around.
What’s more, soils are sources of nutrients, and stabilizers for their surrounding environment. Keeping water, nutrients and stable conditions together greatly increases the chances of survival of organisms.
“Habitable conditions in the region may have been frequent, at least from time to time, relatively late in the history of Mars,” the researchers wrote in their published paper.