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Mars could have hosted life forms


The research vehicle Curiosity demonstrates the possibility of existence of ancient microorganisms on the Red Planet.

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Source: www.nasa.gov

Lots of liquid water, with lakes that 3.6 billion years ago were fed by rivers that flowed to the surface and, with it, all the ingredients necessary for life: the early history of Mars “is written in its rocks,” observed the researchers who studied data collected by the robot – lab Curiosity, NASA sent to Mars with the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL).

The results of their work, in six articles published in Science, they describe a Mars -old and brand new, very different from the red planet and arid we know today. Also presented in a press conference , the data do not provide direct evidence of the existence of life forms on Mars, but it is the first time on Mars are found all the elements essential to life, at least that we know on Earth.

There were then, according to the researchers, all the elements necessary for the existence of prokaryotes, i.e. unicellular microorganisms such as those that are believed to have first populated the Earth. Curiosity identified them in Gale Crater, the crater with a diameter of 150 kilometers which had landed in the sedimentary rocks of the area called Yellowknife Bay, near the Martian equator. Where for a long period (tens of thousands of years, but perhaps also for hundreds of thousands of years) there was a lake, were discovered carbon, hydrogen, sulfur, nitrogen and phosphorus.

 

The presence of these elements, with the water of the lake that occupied the Gale Crater, Mars was ” a habitable environment,” as the researchers have defined, and able to accommodate chimio-litoautotrofy microorganisms, that are able to obtain from the rocks and minerals energy which they need to live. On Earth, similar bacteria live inside caves and hydrothermal vents.

Gale is a large crater with a diameter of 154 km , located along the equatorial belt of the red planet and probably produced by the impact of a meteorite occurred between 3.5 and 3.8 billion years ago. At the center of the crater is a charming and mysterious: the Aeolis Mons or Mount Sharp, as NASA called him in March 2012 in honor of planetary scientist Robert Sharp.

About 5000 meters high, the mountain is a huge accumulation of sediment deposited by water presumably at different times in the course of time. The combination of these layers, accumulated from the bottom, is the equivalent of a history book can tell you the steps geological and environmental conditions of Mars since the formation of the crater. The principle is the same one used for over 150 years to reconstruct the history of our planet.

The data provided in time by the many missions that have observed the surface of Mars suggest that in an ancient past, the Gale Crater could have contained liquid water in it and then it may have been a possible site can accommodate, at least in the past, possible forms of life. In addition to the information provided by geologists at the base of the mountain had been identified traces of clay and sulfates, two materials produced only in the presence of water. The data collected by Curiosity and published in Science now provide the final confirmation that the Gale Crater was a large lake and is the first goal of an extraordinary journey back in time to reconstruct the history of Mars.

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