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Mars Used to Support Life Longer than Previously Thought, Study Says

Sep 20, 2016 04:53 AM EDT

Mars is believed to be the second planet "most-likely" capable of holding human habitation with the help of life-supporting technology and habitation systems. Scientists have also been pointing out the Earth-like properties of ancient Mars before it turned into the dry object that it is today. A recent study even suggests that ancient Mars supported life longer than previously thought.

Due to clues embedded in rock formations on the red planet, as well as the manifestations of some of its Earth-like properties, many scientists argue that Mars was able to hold water and potentially used to support life. But a new study suggests that it has been supporting life longer than what scientists previously thought.

Based on research, the streams and lakes on the red planet still have flowing water two to three billions years ago. These new findings are baffling scientists because most of them thought that by that time, Mars had already lost most of its atmosphere, preventing it from holding water or any life forms.

"This paper presents evidence for episodes of water modifying the surface on early Mars for possibly several hundred million years later than previously thought, with some implication that the water was emplaced by snow, not rain," Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) project scientist Rich Zurek from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement.

The researchers believe that there is still a "considerable" amount of water flowing on several lake basins and that they were still overflowing during the said timeframe. One of the newly discovered lakes is said to be as large as Lake Tahoe that holds 45 cubic miles of water, according to study team lead Sharon Wilson from the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Virginia.

The study focused on the lake and stream system to arrive at their findings. NASA's MRO and other missions such as the Curiosity Rover identified that lakes and streams existed on Mars 3.7 billions of years ago. However, the loss of Martian atmosphere resulted in the planet's cold climate.

"The rate at which water flowed through these valleys is consistent with runoff from melting snow," Sharon Wilson, lead author of the study said in a statement, "These weren't rushing rivers. They have simple drainage patterns and did not form deep or complex systems like the ancient valley networks from early Mars."

Wilson also suggested that the said water is consistent with melting snow. The new discovery, according to researchers, will drive scientists to investigate how the planet's temperature increased over time, and how the environment of ancient Mars allowed flowing water to exist.


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