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As Curiosity Explores Mars New Study Negates Life Support System on Planet

Sep 10, 2012 09:24 AM EDT

At a time when NASA is beaming with the success of landing the Curiosity rover on Mars to find out if the Red planet could have supported microbial life, a new theory has suggested that the early years of Mars may not have been suitable to invite inhabitants.

A team of researchers led by Alain Meunier of France's Universite de Poitiers has suggested that Mars could have been more of a volatile place with frequenting volcanic eruptions, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Earlier studies have pointed out that the Red planet possibly hosted wet and warm conditions supporting microbial life after clay minerals were discovered on Mars in 2005.

NASA study done last year suggested that life, if ever existed on Mars, could have evolved below its surface as liquid water existed for very short periods on the surface. Clay minerals were said to have formed when the warm water intermingled with the subsurface rocks some billions of years ago.

But the new study claims that the clay minerals on Mars might have been formed by water-rich lava. The research team studied clay minerals available at Mururoa atoll in French Polynesia and another region in Parana basin, Brazil, which bore similarities to the minerals found on Mars.

Experts found that the clay minerals were formed from the precipitation of lava on Earth. Based on this study, they theorized that the clay minerals such as iron and magnesium formed on Mars may have been formed from magma that was rich in water.

"To crystallize, clays need water but not necessarily liquid water. In other words, clays are not exclusively typical of soils or altered rocks; they may crystallize also directly from magmas," Meunier told AFP via email interaction.

"Magmatic clays have no climatic significance. Consequently, they cannot be used to prove that the planet was habitable or not during its early history," he said.

Ralph Milliken, a planetary scientist at Brown University who was not involved in the study, pointed out to the Los Angeles Times, that the new study may have some merit giving some insights on the formation of clay minerals, but the researchers have not explained about the tracks that were cut by flowing liquid which appeared on the surface of Mars.

He also noted that the study has not taken into account the formation of mineral deposits known as hematite, which may have formed when water ran beyond them.

The findings of the study are published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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