A mystifying new discovery on the surface of Mars is causing scientists to scratch their heads about the Red Planet.
Scientists believe that the Red Planet long, long ago was once covered with rivers, ponds and lakes and maybe even oceans, but they’ve been confronted by a mystery in the process: how did Mars once have water flowing on its surface when a new study indicates that its early atmosphere had hundreds of times less carbon dioxide than would have been needed to keep the water warm enough to stay liquid?
The question of water on Mars has always been a major one, as it’s the number one factor in the search for life. And there’s lots of evidence Mars once had it, and may even have it today in small amounts. But an analysis of data taken from orbit indicate that there hasn’t been much carbonate minerals on the Martian surface, meaning a lack of a rich carbon dioxie atmosphere in ancient times.
Scientists have examined data from NASA’s Curiosity rover at the Gale Crater for clues on why this is, according to a NASA statement. They examined sedimentary rocks deposited 3.5 billion years ago, and didn’t detect carbonates. It’s a finding that almost contradicts the clear sedimentary evidence that liquid water was present on early Mars, forcing scientists to try to understand why, including formulating theories that carbonates on the surface were deestroyed somehow, or that Mars was warmed by other greenhouse gases.
“Ample evidence says ancient Mars was sometimes wet, with water flowing and pooling on the planet’s surface. Yet, the ancient sun was about one-third less warm and climate modelers struggle to produce scenarios that get the surface of Mars warm enough for keeping water unfrozen,” a NASA statement reads. “A leading theory is to have a thicker carbon-dioxide atmosphere forming a greenhouse-gas blanket, helping to warm the surface of ancient Mars. However, according to a new analysis of data from NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, Mars had far too little carbon dioxide about 3.5 billion years ago to provide enough greenhouse-effect warming to thaw water ice.”