Scientists have hoped that evidence will be found on Mars that the planet could’ve harbored life in the past. The NASA Curiosity Rover is on the surface of Mars right now searching for evidence of liquid water on the surface of the planet in the past. A new theory has surfaced that suggests the discovery of geological evidence of past flowing water in clay on Mars could be a red herring.
Scientists are searching Mars and looking for clues in clay formations on the planet that indicated water flowed on or under the surface of Mars in the past. However, a paper published online over the weekend by Nature Geoscience argues that clays discovered on the surface the planet could have been formed in hot Martian magma that was rich in water. The paper suggests that clays formed by magma rich in water would’ve been too hot to support microbial life.
The paper was co-authored by Bethany Ehlmann, a planetary geologist from the California Institute of technology. The theory put forth in the paper contrasts two other theories about Mars. One of the other theories is that liquid water that flowed across the Martian surface would’ve interacted with surrounding minerals and formed the clays scientists are searching for.
Another theory suggests that underground water was warmed by the planet’s internal heat and could have provided an environment conductive microbial life before and being bound in the mineral structure of the clays being searched for. According to Ehlmann, the clay scientists are searching for could have formed as lava cooled from 1500°C. Temperatures that high wouldn’t be a good habitat for microbial life according to the scientist.