Past observations from Mars orbiters and exploration rovers gave scientists hope that water once existed in shallow lakes on Mars. Some of this evidence was based on clay minerals found on Mars, thought only to form in the presence of liquid water. This was exciting because the presence of water means Mars could have once sustained life.But a new a theory, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, suggests that the clays originated from water-rich magma that cooled, as opposed to soil that mixed with water moving over the surface or underground water that came up through hydrothermal vents. The finding questions whether Mars ever harbored life because the water in the magma would be too hot for microbes to survive, says The Los Angeles Times’ Amina Khan.
The theory is supported by clays found in French Polynesia, similar to those found on Mars, that formed from cooling lava.
Meanwhile, NASA’s $2.5-billion Curiosity rover continues its two-year mission to find out if Mars was, or is, able to support microbial life.
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