Many scientists agree that, at one point in its history, Mars harbored water. Yet, just how much water was present on the Red Planet’s surface remains a matter of debate. Now, a team of researchers led by the University of Copenhagen has discovered that when Mars was a young planet, it was frequently bombarded by icy asteroids which delivered massive amounts of water, as well as amino acids and other organic chemicals that are necessary for life to emerge.
The scientists made this amazing discovery by means of a meteorite that is billions of years old and was once part of Mars’ original crust. Since, unlike the surface of the Earth, that of Mars does not move, Mars does not have plate tectonics so its surface can preserve a record of the earliest history of the planet.
The analysis of this meteorite revealed that about 4.5 billion years ago, there was enough water on Mars for the entire planet to be covered in a 300-meter-deep ocean. “At this time, Mars was bombarded with asteroids filled with ice. It happened in the first 100 million years of the planet’s evolution. Another interesting angle is that the asteroids also carried organic molecules that are biologically important for life,” explained study senior author Martin Bizzarro, the director of the Center for Star and Planet Formation at the University of Copenhagen.
“This happened within Mars’ first 100 million years. After this period, something catastrophic happened for potential life on Earth. It is believed that there was a gigantic collision between the Earth and another Mars-sized planet. It was an energetic collision that formed the Earth-Moon system and, at the same time, wiped out all potential life on Earth.”
Thus, these findings suggest the strong possibility that conditions allowing for the emergence of life were present on Mars long before Earth.
The study is published in the journal Science Advances.
By Andrei Ionescu, Earth.com Staff Writer
Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and Earth.com.