Study finds ancient Hydrothermal vents on Mars ‘cradle for alien life’ on Red Planet
Have we found indirect evidence that in the distant past, the red planet met all the necessary conditions for life?
According to experts, these results indicate that it is possible that a Martian basin once hosted life as well.
Mars continues to surprise. Researchers have found ancient hydrothermal vents that could have been ‘a cradle for life’.
The study of data obtained by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) led to the finding of evidence of ancient hydrothermal deposits on the seabed on Mars, something that could be instrumental in obtaining clues about the origin of life on earth.
Based on studies of the Eridania basin, a Martian region with ancient geological formations, experts were able to identify various minerals that show a pattern backing the existence of hydrothermal deposits.
According to Paul Niles, one of the authors of the research, the region on Mars suggests that there was a sea of hydrothermal activity and that the combination of water and volcanic activity created conditions “probably similar” to that which occurred on Earth, precisely at the moment when life began to evolve.
The study, titled “Ancient Hydrothermal Seafloor Deposits in Eridania Basin on Mars“, recently appeared in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
“It is very similar to the hydrothermal environments of the Earth: without a pleasant atmosphere, with only rocks and water,” explains the expert. According to the study, the so-called Eridan Sea is likely to have emerged some 3.7 billion years ago.
The Eridania basin of southern Mars is believed to have held a sea about 3.7 billion years ago, with seafloor deposits likely resulting from the underwater hydrothermal activity. Credit: NASA
“Even if we never find evidence that there’s been life on Mars, this site can tell us about the type of environment where life may have begun on Earth. Volcanic activity combined with standing water provided conditions that were likely similar to conditions that existed on Earth at about the same time — when early life was evolving here.”
Even though Mars today may seem a lifeless, cold planet, around 3.7 billion years ago, it was a very different place with water and even volcanic activity. Evidence of that is the vast fluvial deposits and sedimentary basins NASA has discovered on the surface of the planet.
One of the best examples of this is the Gale Crater, once believed to have been a major lake bed, and one of the main study area for NASA’s Curiosity Rover.
Illustrates showing the origin of some deposits in the Eridania basin of southern Mars resulting from seafloor hydrothermal activity more than 3 billion years ago. Credit: NASA
Due to the fact that we now know that Mars once had surface water and volcanic activity, experts are able to conclude that it also experienced hydrothermal activity—something that occurs when volcanic vents open into bodies of water willing them with hydrated minerals and heat.
“This site gives us a compelling story for a deep, long-lived sea and a deep-sea hydrothermal environment,” Niles said. “It is evocative of the deep-sea hydrothermal environments on Earth, similar to environments where life might be found on other worlds — life that doesn’t need a nice atmosphere or temperate surface, but just rocks, heat and water.”
Basically, what we found on Mars is the type of hydrothermal activity responsible for the emergence of life on Earth. So if this may have kicked off life on Earth, who says the same did not happen on Mars, billions of years ago?