Martian Lakes Indicate Mars Had Ancient Habitable Environment

First Posted: Feb 12, 2016 03:28 PM EST

Researchers found that some areas in Martian lakes hold evidence which indicates that the red planet had an ancient habitable environment. In the study, researchers discovered that some of Mars' deepest basins were formed about 3 billions years ago by groundwater circulation below a massive tectonic rift zone, located along the edges of some of the Solar System's largest volcanic plateaus. These basins were gradually covered by lava and water lakes that were released from subsurface pressurized sources over the course of hundreds of millions of years, which suggests that Mars probably harbored life in the past.

"The temperature ranges, presence of liquid water, and nutrient availability, which characterize known habitable environments on Earth, have higher chances of forming on Mars in areas of long-lived water and volcanic processes," J. Alexis Rodriguez, coauthor of the study, said in a news release. "Existing salt deposits and sedimentary structures of possible emplacement within Martian paleo-lakes are of particular astrobiological importance when looking for past habitable areas on Mars."

Rodriguez claimed that the discharged of the early Mars groundwater was probably linked to the hydrothermal systems, which were active for billions of years may have contributed to the formation of the paleo-lakes. However, the discovery of these paleo-lakes could raise challenging concerns, since Mars' frigid and thick atmosphere would hold water that is much different from that on Earth.

"In this research we propose a Tibetan region where high mountain lakes show unique sets of landforms that might explain some basin interior features in the studied region of Mars," Rodriquez said.

The team intends to conduct further research where the Tibetan region will be explored.

The findings of this study were published in Planetary and Space Science.

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