Traces of underground water discovered on Mars that could have supported life

The Curiosity rover detected boron on the surface of Mars, indicating that at some point in its history, the red planet contained groundwater that could support long-term life.

On Mars, Curiosity continues to explore Mount Sharp, in the center of the Gale crater formed at its base by lacustrine deposits. The latest data returned by the rover suggests that a long time ago, sediments from the ancient lake may have interacted with groundwater by changing the chemistry. NASA has just revealed the detection of boron for the first time on the surface of Mars. This element is associated on Earth with sites where large amounts of water have evaporated and once again indicates that the ingredients necessary for life were once united on the red planet.

It’s the first time he’s been identified on Mars, and his focus has steadily increased as the rover has ascended. For the moment, researchers do not know in what form it comes, but if it is similar to the one present on Earth. It would then indicate that the temperature of the groundwater was between 0 and 62°C and that its pH was neutral. It is therefore an environment that could have been compatible with life and its emergence in the long term.

To explain its presence, the researchers propose that the boron was deposited there by moving water, thus a dynamic system where the elements could interact. It may have accumulated after the evaporation of a lake on an upper level not yet examined and then later dissolved by water and transported to deeper layers, through fractures where it accumulated.

 » Variations in these minerals and elements indicate a dynamic system explained John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology.  » They interact with groundwater and surface water. Water influences the chemistry of clays, but the composition of water also changes. We see a chemical complexity that indicates a long interactive history with water, and the more complicated the chemistry, the better the habitability. « .

 » A sedimentary basin like this is a real chemical reactor “, explains the researcher.  » The elements are rearranged, new minerals are formed, old ones dissolve. The electrons are redistributed. On Earth, these reactions sustain life « . So why not Mars? Without real evidence of ancient microbes, we’ll never be able to say for sure whether or not Mars hosted life a very long time ago. But it seems increasingly likely that it could at least have been possible.


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