Fast – Dissolving Water Squeezed Life Out of Mars

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Fast – Dissolving Water Squeezed Life Out of Mars

Water dissolved into the surface of Mars too fast to sustain a life – supporting biosphere.First evidence announced on Monday by scientists from the University of Glasgow has shown that water once dissolved the surface of Mars.

This was published in Meteoritical Society’s journal MAPS on Monday by scientists at the University together with the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre and the Natural History Museum ( London ) who based their finding on results following tests on a 1.7gm fragment of a Martian meteorite known as Nakhla.

Nakhla, named after the town in Egypt where it landed in 1911 after being blasted from the surface of Mars by a massive impact around 10 million years ago, has been studied for decades by scientists around the world. Previous research on Nakhla has provided evidence of the existence of water on Mars through the presence in the meteorite of ‘secondary minerals’ — types of carbonates, hydrous silicates and sulfates most likely formed when Martian minerals reacted with liquid water.

Professor Martin Lee of the University’s School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, lead author of the paper, said, “From the amount of dissolution we observed, it’s likely that this particular piece of Mars was affected by water for only a few months and probably less than a year in total. That’s not long enough to sustain a life – supporting biosphere.”

He added, “To support life water needs to exist for millions of years. Since water didn’t exist long enough, we didn’t find any life form in the crust.” He said it has been unclear in the past as to where exactly the chemical elements which made up the secondary minerals within Nakhla came from.

“Using an electron microscope, we examined tiny bowl – shaped depressions, known as etch pits, in grains of minerals olivine and augite found in the meteorite. What we’ve found is proof that the etch pits were created when water dissolved the olivine and augite, and that the elements released from those minerals led to formation of the secondary minerals,” Lee said.

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