A new study points towards the fact that Mars has developed conditions for water long before we previously thought. As a result, life could have had an extended period of time to evolve on the red planet.
The findings were released in the Nature journal last Wednesday, and they prove that Mars had appropriate climate conditions to allow the flow of water even before the time that scientists have previously determined. It appears that certain centripetal forces from the red planet have shifted its surface by twenty degrees. This is estimated to have taken place 3.2 billion years in the past, in order to move the mass of a volcanic region named Tharsis. The occurrence is widely known as “true polar wander”.
Tharsis is Mars’ largest volcanic region measuring 2,500 miles. It can reach a height of six miles and includes nine small volcanoes and three huge ones that are one hundred times bigger than the ones we have on Earth.
Scientists have agreed that after this modelling of Tharsis the river valleys were formed. Since the region gained height due to the lava’s buildup, the rivers started to flow away from it. This is largely believed because the valleys of the red planet are very similar to the ones on Earth.
By tilting the planet to its original position, researchers have determined that its topography might have allowed rivers to flow without the influence of Tharsis. It appears that the water used to flow from the southern hemisphere of Mars towards the lower plains of the north. If the polar ice caps did melt, then they are the source of the flowing water. This could have happened after the volcanoes made temperatures rise.
The research team consisting of scientists from the United States, France and Senegal, has also determined that the volcanic activity must have started five hundred million years before the time that was previously established.
According to NASA scientist Ashwin R. Vasavada who worked on the Curiosity project,
“From a practical point of view, if water was around later, it better helps explain everything we’re finding with Curiosity. This extended Tharsis volcanism may be the key to explaining why the climate remained conducive to liquid.”
The results of the study complement the findings of the Curiosity rover from NASA, which has discovered that the Gale Crater used to be filled with water hundreds or thousands of years. As the famous trip to Mars is approaching, we can expect more and more details to emerge on the mysterious red planet.
Image Source: NASA