Large parts of Mars were probably capable of supporting life for over 100 million years, new observations by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity published Tuesday suggest.
Curiosity observed 650 feet of rocks laid down over hundreds of millions of years and found that Mars’ environment changed considerably over its geologic history, but that it always would have been possible for life to form or survive.
“For that entire history [of Mars], it seems to have been favorable [for life],” Dr. John Grotzinger, a Curiosity science team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, told Space.com. “This is all very good for habitability over long periods of time.”
Curiosity determined that the crater it landed in was probably a habitable lake-and-stream system billions of years ago and included fresh neutral-pH water. Additionally, the Mars rover found complex minerals that were probably created in a relatively habitable environment.
These discoveries mean that the area was probably hospitable to microbial life for quite some time.
Research indicates that if life did exist on Mars, it would likely be relatively primitive, just like life on Earth during the same time period.
The earliest potential evidence of life on Earth is 3.5 billion years old, but the first multi-cellular animals did not appear until about 600 million years ago and were not diversified until roughly 542 million years ago in the Cambrian “explosion.”
The new study is just the latest to determine that The Red Planet may have contained habitats with the potential to support life.
Scientists at the University of Texas published research in November that said some volcanic areas on Mars could be ideal chemical environment for life to develop and flourish even in the present day. Lava from volcanoes and ice from glaciers would combine to form a fairly warm environment by Martian standards that even has access to a lot of water ice, and potentially even liquid water.
Geologists announced in September that they found 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. The Red Planet’s atmosphere is rich in oxygen, so an ample supply of hydrogen could mean that water is more common on Mars than generally believed.
Technologically advanced alien civilizations almost certainly exist according astronomers. A study estimates that the odds of humanity being the only civilization in the universe are less than one chance in about “10 billion trillion.” Researchers estimate there have been roughly 10 billion alien civilizations in the history of the universe.
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