Was life possible on Mars? A new discovery by NASA’s Curiosity rover helps answer the question.
Toulouse – Researchers still don’t know exactly how life arose on Earth. However, one theory remains: the alternating cycles of dry and wet conditions on Earth caused microbial life to emerge from complex chemical building blocks. For this reason, a new discovery by NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars is particularly exciting for research.
The rover, which has been exploring the Red Planet for eleven years, is climbing Mount Sharp in Gale Crater on Mars. There he discovered something that seemed inconspicuous to ordinary people: cracks in the dry soil. The cracks form a hexagonal pattern – which makes them very exciting to research, because science knows how these hexagonal cracks form.
Hexagonal Patterns on Mars – Research indicates wet and dry conditions
As the clay dries, it shrinks. This creates T-shaped cracks. Curiosity has previously detected such cracks on Mars, and they are an indication that clay formed once and dried up again. However, if the clay comes into contact with water more often after this, the T-shaped cracks soften and eventually form a Y-shape—the characteristic hexagonal patterns being formed.
“These special mud cracks form when wet and dry conditions occur frequently – perhaps even seasonally,” explains William Rabin of the Institute for Research in Astrophysics and Planetary Science in Toulouse. Rabin is the leader of a study of hexagrams on Mars in the journal nature published had become.
Hexagonal fissures on Mars are billions of years old
Someone says that the hexagonal patterns on Mars formed when fresh sediment was washed away by water NASA ad. The research concluded that alternating wet and dry conditions occurred over a long period of time. The salty crust preserved the mud fissures on it for billions of years, allowing researchers to see it today. Using Curiosity’s Mastcam and ChemCam instruments, the research team found the salt to be between 3.8 and 3.6 billion years old.
Rabin notes, “This is the first concrete evidence that the ancient climate of Mars showed regular Earth-like wet and dry cycles.” “But more importantly, wet-dry cycles are beneficial—and perhaps also essential—for molecular evolution that could give rise to life.”
Mars’ wet-dry cycles may have made life possible
Water is essential to life, but it requires a certain balance—not too much, not too little water. According to research, the conditions that can sustain microbial life are not the same as those required to promote chemical reactions that can give rise to life. Dry-wet cycles control the concentration of chemicals that enable the essential reactions that give rise to life.
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NASA’s Curiosity rover has been exploring Mars for eleven years
This isn’t the first time NASA’s Curiosity rover has made discoveries on Mars that show microbial life may once have been possible there. “In eleven years, we’ve found ample evidence that microbial life may have existed on ancient Mars. Now the mission has found evidence of conditions that could also have been conducive to the emergence of life,” says Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Curiosity has already detected organic materials on Mars, among other things.
It’s a good opportunity for researchers: Just because Mars doesn’t have plate tectonics, billions of years old mud cracks can still be seen — a testament to the very distant past. But on Earth, tectonic plate movements cause similar features to disappear. “We are fortunate to have a planet as close to us as Mars, which still retains the memory of the natural processes that may have given rise to life,” says Rabin. (unpaid bill)
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