Martian “ice cauldrons” could be the key to finding life on the Red Planet, according to scientists at the University of Texas.
Formed by volcanoes and glaciers, the cauldrons are a nearly ideal chemical environment for life to develop and flourish. Lava from volcanoes and ice from glaciers would combine to form a fairly warm environment by Martian standards and have access to a lot of water ice, and potentially even liquid water.
“We were drawn to this site because it looked like it could host some of the key ingredients for habitability—water, heat and nutrients,” Dr. Joseph Levy, a geologist at the University of Texas who was involved in the research, said in a press statement. “These landforms caught our eye because they’re weird looking. They’re concentrically fractured so they look like a bulls-eye. That can be a very diagnostic pattern you see in Earth materials.”
Levy’s team used extremely high resolution images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and concluded that the cauldrons may have been formed by either volcanic activity or an asteroid impact.
The research was supported by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
The new study is just the latest to determine that The Red Planet may contain habitats which can potentially support life.
In September, NASA-sponsored geologists at the University of Aberdeen found that hydrogen, a critical component necessary to support life, can be produced by earthquakes on Earth. They concluded that the same kind of “Marsquakes” could produce hydrogen on Mars, removing a major barrier to life.
NASA is also considering plans to put a large space station in orbit above Mars by 2028, according to plans outlined in August by major aerospace contractor Lockheed Martin. Astronauts would live aboard the “Mars Base Camp” for a year to collect information in preparation for the first manned landing. Lockheed Martin’s plan will construct a 132-ton space station around Mars capable of hosting six astronauts for a year. In comparison, the International Space Station weighs about 440 tons.
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