A major ‘catastrophic’ collision may have killed life on Mars (the Red Planet) four billion years ago, scientists say. According to them, this event resulted in the death of an entire alien race. The scientists were constructing their findings on data returned by the Curiosity rover.
NASA scientists believe that the massive collision perhaps caused by volcanic eruptions or a devastating crash with a Pluto-sized planet, caused the air to shrink and strip away and kill any forms life on the planet.
Dr. Chris Webster at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, lead author on the study, said,
“As Mars became a planet and its magma ocean solidified, catastrophic outgassing occurred while volatiles were delivered by impact of comets and other smaller bodies. Solar wind and the possible impact by a Pluto-sized body is thought to have stripped much of the initial early atmosphere from the planet, and since then the atmosphere has developed as a balance between volcanic injection and loss to space.”
Life on Mars existed billions of years ago, scientists believe, before a catastrophic collision killed it.
The study of the Curiosity rover’s data has found that the atmosphere on Mars at one time was denser and wetter, leading scientists to believe that it contained oxygen long before the atmosphere on Earth did.
A sample drilled from a Martian sedimentary bedrock was found to contain clay minerals, sulfate minerals, and other chemicals. Minerals, including hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, were also found in rocks picked up by the Curiosity. These are the building blocks of life, NASA scientists say.
Researchers, analyzing the chemicals in the rocks, were able to conclude that the water that helped form these rocks were of a relatively neutral pH. Scientists said the finding could represent another step forward to proving the existence of conditions that could support life on Mars.
“A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. “From what we know now, the answer is yes.”
NASA scientists were also probing the Martian atmosphere for methane after a telescope on Earth had detected an unexpected and mysterious amount of the gas in western hemisphere of the Red Planet. On Earth, methane is mainly a by-product of life, from animal digestion and decaying plants. The gas can also be produced by non-biological processes.
According to scientists the presence of methane could have suggested there was some form of life still lingering on the planet. However, the Curiosity rover did not find any methane. This has disappointed scientists who believe microbes may still exist on the planet.
NASA says the new results from Curiosity will make it possible for scientists to replicate the evolution of the Martian climate over time. It will also allow them to determine whether the planet was warm and wet once upon a time and if it might have had the right conditions for life.
NASA’s Dr. Paul Mahaffy and a lead scientist in the study said:
“A fundamental question regarding the habitability of early Mars is how long liquid water, in the form of lakes, or even oceans, might have persisted on the surface to support microbial life that may have been present.”
John Grunsfeld, an official at NASA said the finding makes him “feel giddy.”
He added that the new data adds to the image of Mars containing a possible freshwater lake and a snow-capped Mount Sharp before a catastrophic collision on the Red Planet killed life.
Curiosity, a six-wheeled robot was sent Mars on a two year mission. It made a dramatic landing last August on Mars equator.
By Perviz Walji