As much fun as it is to think of Mars as basically a chalky red wasteland, this wasn't always the case - millennia ago, the planet looked very different, with oceans and hot springs that weren't unlike the watery covering that our planet now sports.
Mars may be an arid wasteland today, but that wasn't always the case - and scientists have discovered evidence that a huge sea existed on southern Mars some 3.7 billion years ago, filled with hot springs pumping out water packed with minerals. These seafloor deposits not only represent a point of interest for the Mars exploration but also open up windows towards the early Earth that was the creation point of life on our blue planet.
"Even if we never find on Mars evidence of life, this region can tell us about the conditions in which it originated on Earth", said scientist Paul Niles. But, now there is no water and no volcanic activity on the Red Planet, the Sun reported. A life which doesn't require excellent atmosphere or temperate surface can easily survive on rocks, heat, and water. Life got its start on Earth at about that time, and deep-sea hydrothermal environments may have been the cradle.
Even if Mars never hosted living organisms, its colossal lake could still help inform researchers painting the picture of life's origins here on Earth.
And we're talking about a seriously big sea: maybe 210,000 cubic kilometres (50,380 cubic miles) of water, more than all the other lakes and seas on ancient Mars combined, and nine times more than all the water in the Great Lakes of North America. MRO's spectrometer identified deposits of serpentine, talc and carbonate, minerals created by underwater hydrothermal activity. Additionally, the shape and texture of the thick bedrock layers are consistent with seafloor hydrothermal deposits.
This area of Mars crust has a volcanic susceptibility which could have been prevalent back in the days when the sea was present.
"Volcanic activity combined with standing water provided conditions that were likely similar to conditions that existed on Earth at about the same time - when early life was evolving here".
As scientists continue to search for signs of past life on Mars, the recent study highlights yet another type of wet environment that may have once existed on Mars. Seafloor deposits of similar origin and age provide most initial evidence of life on Earth, but sadly the geological record of these early-Earth environments is poorly preserved and thus doesn't provide much raw data for research.