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Space & Astronomy

Mars lakes formed more recently than thought

By T.K. Randall
September 19, 2016 · Comment icon 21 comments

Mars was once a lot more like the Earth. Image Credit: YouTube / NASA
It now appears as though Mars would have been able to support life for longer than is generally believed.
Mars might be a freezing, desolate place today, but in the planet's distant past the conditions were thought to be sufficiently wet and warm enough for primitive life forms to have survived there.

Now scientists believe that Mars may have even been home to newly formed streams and lakes as recently as two billion years ago - a time by which it had been generally thought that the planet had already lost its atmosphere and was too cold for liquid water to still exist on its surface.

If these findings, which were based on images from three separate Mars orbiters, turn out to be accurate then it would mean that life could have potentially existed there for up to a billion years longer than scientists had previously thought possible.
"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," said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter scientist Rich Zurek.

The researchers were able to date these later bodies of water by looking for evidence of water erosion within impact craters on the planet's surface.

"We discovered valleys that carried water into lake basins," said study leader Sharon Wilson of the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Virginia. "Several lake basins filled and overflowed, indicating there was a considerable amount of water on the landscape during this time."

Source: | Comments (21)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #12 Posted by BmanQ 7 years ago
Hey Waspie...the story never does say that 2-3 billion years ago is the recent past.....instead it says "AS recently as" That's a big diference, or is it ...maybe it depend's how tall you are...who knows
Comment icon #13 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
Hi†BmanQ Maybe you should have read the whole conversation as you†have missed the entire point of what I said. I know what the original article says.†I made no claim that the original article†does say that 2-3†billion years is the recent past. Dark_Grey DID make such a claim and it was that claim I was arguing with.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
You†have misunderstood why the ALH 84001 "fossils", were rejected by science. Whilst the size was one objection it is not the main reason that they are not accepted as past life on Mars. The fact that the structures can be better explained as the result of geological processes IS the reason they were (and still are) considered not to be fossils.
Comment icon #15 Posted by qxcontinuum 7 years ago
exactly what i said sustaining that live may have existed not so far back (speaking in evolurive terms) as some smart arses were making havoc with comments around here. So yes it is possible to find shells and fossils like on earth
Comment icon #16 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
There is no need to be insulting, particularly as the vast majority of your posts are unscientific nonsense (see below). † No it isn't. Multicellular life did not appear on Earth until around 800 million years ago. That is between 1.2 - 2.2 billion years after Mars became dry. Complex multicellular life did not arise until around 580 million years ago which is 1.42 - 2.42 billion years after Mars lost it's water and most of it's atmosphere. So if you are going to make claims that Earth like complex life could hace occured (as you have just done) then there simply was not time.
Comment icon #17 Posted by Calibeliever 7 years ago
My understanding is that multi-cellular life formed as much as 2 billion years ago. And single celled as long as 3.5 billion.†Is Mar's formation timeline similar to ours? I know we supposedly had a large collision that formed the moon around 4.5 billion years ago and it would have taken a long time for us to cool back down enough for life to form. I'm not making a case either way, just curious.
Comment icon #18 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
2 billion years ago is when the eukaryotes emerged. These are single cells but, unlike the primitive†prokaryote single cellular life that preceded them, have membrane bound organelles,including a nucleus. See here: wikipedia - Eukaryote and here: wikipedia - Prokaryote. Multicellular life did not emerge for another 1.2 - 1.4 billion years.
Comment icon #19 Posted by rashore 7 years ago
Ok, so I'm usually pretty ignorant in this topic but.... Why would they have assumed all the lakes were the same age to begin with? Why didn't they assume there would be different ages to water formations- it's like that on Earth that water has changed stuff over the millions of years, why wouldn't it do that on other planets too.. and so researchers would think to actively look for that sort of thing sooner? Or is it just that this particular stuff formed much later, and they didn't think it would happen that late? I mean, like they did assume different ages to water formations, but were caug... [More]
Comment icon #20 Posted by Calibeliever 7 years ago
Got it ok. But what about the other factors that might affect the timeline? Mars was smaller so it's surface would have cooled faster. It was also farther from the sun and therefore (presumably) received†less radiation. Could those factors have significantly changed the timescale if we assume that all planetary life formation happens roughly along the same trajectory? Or is there still not enough time?
Comment icon #21 Posted by FTWind 7 years ago
It seems timelines are easily pushed around by new discoveries. See, by just one simple observation the timeline of mars has†been pushed by a billion years. To say anything as fact is more ignorant than saying life "might" of flourished on mars.

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