Mars Express's OMEGA uncovers possible sites for life

Apr 21, 2006

By mapping minerals on the surface of Mars using the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, scientists have discovered the three ages of Martian geological history and found valuable clues as to where life might have developed.

The new work shows that large bodies of standing water might only have been present on Mars in the remote past, before four thousand million years ago, if they were present at all.

The results come from the OMEGA instrument on board Mars Express. In one Martian year (687 Earth days) of operation, OMEGA mapped 90 percent of the surface, allowing the identification of a variety of minerals and the processes by which they have been altered during the course of Martian history. The maps have allowed scientists to identify three geological eras for Mars.

The ‘phyllosian’ era, occurred between 4.5–4.2 thousand million years ago, the ‘theiikian’, took place between 4.2 and 3.8 billion years ago and the ‘siderikian’, began sometime around 3.8–3.5 billion years ago and continues today.

The era most likely to have supported life was the phyllosian, when clay beds could have formed at the bottom of lakes and seas, providing the damp conditions in which the processes of life could begin.

After this initial period, water largely disappeared from the planet’s surface either by seeping underground or being lost into space. Except for a few localised transient water events, Mars became dry.

The full results are published in the 21 April issue of the journal Science.

Source: BNSC

Explore further: Rosetta Comet Landing in 'Thud' and 3D

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Curiosity Mars rover finds mineral match

Nov 05, 2014

(Phys.org) —Reddish rock powder from the first hole drilled into a Martian mountain by NASA's Curiosity rover has yielded the mission's first confirmation of a mineral mapped from orbit.

Life can survive on much less water than you might think

Nov 04, 2014

"Follow the water" has long been the mantra of our scientific search for alien life in the Solar System and beyond. We continue seeking conditions where water can remain liquid either on a world's surface ...

Mars Orbiter's spectrometer shows Oort comet's coma

Oct 27, 2014

The Compact Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) observed comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as the comet sped close to Mars on Oct. 19. CRISM recorded imaging data in 107 different wavelengths, showing the inner ...

Recommended for you

Iridium flares captured in real time by astrophotographer

6 hours ago

There are so many fun sights to see in the sky that are pure astronomical magic. And then there are the spectacular human-created sights. One of those sights is watching satellites from the Iridium constellation ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.