Has life ever existed on Mars? Could it exist on the planet again? These questions have been whirring around the brains of those who are passionate about astronomy for decades since they see our red neighbour as the perfect candidate for life to develop. And a recent study led by Western University in Canada could have given them some food for thought.
According to researchers, Mars could, in fact, have been hit by a meteorite shower at the beginning of time, just like Earth was. But on the contrary to our planet, this shower apparently came to an end earlier on Mars than it did on Earth, making it possible for life to develop a lot sooner than on the blue planet.
To come to this conclusion, they analyzed rocks found in the Sahara Desert that they suspect came from the planet Mars. These rocks contained grains of zirconium and baddeleyite, two elements that allowed them to date the rocks.
A 700-million-year window
It is estimated that the first life forms appeared on Earth more than 3.5 billion years ago, while the meteor shower came to an end 3.8 billion years ago. According to scientists, this shower finished on the red planet 4.48 billion years ago. Therefore, there was a 700-million-year period on Mars during which the optimal conditions for life to develop could have been met. That’s around 500 million years earlier than on Earth.
‘Giant meteorite impacts on Mars between 4.2 and 3.5 billion years ago may have actually accelerated the release of early waters from the interior of the planet setting the stage for life-forming reactions,’ declared Desmond Moser, a researcher at Western University.
The conditions were met… But has there actually been life on Mars? Additional studies will need to be carried out in order to answer this question once and for all.