New Study Says Mars Wasn’t That Wet, Not a Great Contender for Alien Life | Space

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For decades, astronomers have viewed Mars as one of the most promising locations to find evidence of extraterrestrial life in our solar system. The planet shows tantalizing signs of having liquid water in its ancient past – a key ingredient for life as we know it. However, a new study may prove that Mars was not as wet as we previously thought.

NASA has sent a fleet of rovers to explore Mars, scouring the surface for clues about its watery history. Of particular interest are the mysterious gullies that scar the planet’s surface – trenches that, on Earth, would be formed by flowing liquid carving into soil and rock over time.

However, researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands are casting doubt on just how wet and potentially habitable Mars has truly been, at least in more recent history. The research provides strong evidence that these gullies were created not by water, but by something much more ephemeral – the sublimation of carbon dioxide (CO2) ice.

Published in the journal, Communications Earth & Environment, the team investigated the origins of the martian gullies with a two-pronged approach. 

First, they conducted experiments simulating the low atmospheric pressure and temperature conditions on Mars using a specialized environmental chamber. Inside the chamber, they created scenarios where either 1) a mixture of sand and CO2 ice flowed over a heated surface, or 2) warm sand flowed over a layer of CO2 ice. In both cases, the sublimation (direct transition from solid to gas) of the CO2 ice caused the sand to become fluidized and mobile, creating flow patterns strikingly similar to those seen in martian gullies.

Lonneke Roelofs next to the “Mars chamber” at the Open University, Milton Keynes (UK). (Image: Open University/ Milton Keynes)

“With our experiments in a so-called ‘Mars chamber,’ we were able to simulate this process under Martian conditions,” Lonneke Roelofs, a planetary researcher at…

… read more thedebrief.org

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