Mars could have had some key ingredients for life produced thanks to some asteroid impacts on ancient Mars, according to a new study. If that happened, a lot of hydrogen entered the Martian atmosphere making it habitable. After its atmosphere thinned, the planet remained suitable for life, and that could be explained by the early hydrogen-rich atmosphere on Mars. That could mean that life on Mars might have existed in the past.
Data that was gathered by the Curiosity rover of NASA when it went to Mars was used in this study which was conducted by researchers behind the Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument and a group of international scientists.
The key ingredients we mentioned include nitrates (NO3) and nitrites (NO2) which are fixed forms of nitrogen that are a critical component that sustains and establishes life as we know it. Those were discovered by Curiosity in rock and soil samples that the rover took while traversing the site of ancient lakes and groundwater systems on Gale Crater, on Mars.
There might have been life on Mars in the past since the ancient Martian atmosphere was habitable
The Gale Crater might have become a deposit of fixed nitrogen, but in order to understand how that happened, the early Martian atmosphere was recreated here on Earth by researchers. Dr. Rafael Navarro-Gonzalez led the study carried out by his team of scientists at the Institute of Nuclear Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City.
To investigate the role hydrogen plays in altering nitrogen into nitrates and nitrites with energy used from asteroid impacts, the scientists used a combination of theoretical models and experimental data. If you want a more in-depth look into this paper, you can find it in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets where it was published at the beginning of the year, in January.
To simulate the high-energy shockwaves created by asteroids slamming into the atmosphere the group used infrared laser beam pulses in the lab. The study concluded that life on Mars might have existed in the past as the Martian atmosphere would have been habitable back then.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.