Mars Basin Could Be Hiding an Ancient Biosphere

Wednesday, 06 April 2016 - 12:32PM
Astrobiology
Mars
Alien Life
Wednesday, 06 April 2016 - 12:32PM
Mars Basin Could Be Hiding an Ancient Biosphere
Astrobiologists might have discovered the best place to look for alien life on Mars, in the form of a region called the Argyre basin, a huge geological feature caused by a massive asteroid collision. According to a new study, the basin has several distinct elements that make it a prime location for life to potentially evolve. 

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"Argyre's unique geological setting may have contributed to the existence of life and may have significant implications for the search for life on Mars," the authors wrote in their paper, published in the journal Astrobiology.
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Four billion years ago, a large portion of Mars was covered by liquid ocean. Around this time, the Late Heavy Bombardment occurred, in which a disproportionately high number of asteroids collided with the planets of our early Solar System. One of these collisions into Mars formed the impact basin Argyre, and may also have helped spread life-forming elements such as water from the crust to the surface and helped to drive hydrothermal activity towards the basin. Studies have shown that the basin may have been the site of a flowing river, and would have been an ideal place for microbial life to thrive.

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"Argyre displays a collection of landscape features that are promising from an astrobiological point of view, including hydrothermal deposits, pingos [mounds of dirt-covered ice fed by water] or ancient glacier deposits," lead author Alberto Fairén told Space.com. "This large collection of special features all together in the same setting, accessible by a single mission, is what makes Argyre unique."
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And as it happens, we're in luck, because the area is extremely accessible to a potential exploratory mission. The low elevation would make it a perfect landing spot for a mission that required parachutes, although sunlight is hard to come by, so a robotic rover would likely need to rely on nuclear power, as Curiosity does.

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"I would like to have a true life-searching payload to inspect the astrobiologically promising features," Fairén said. "Argyre could be safeguarding the latest remains of an ancient Martian biosphere."
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Science
Space
Astrobiology
Mars
Alien Life

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