We have long been searching for life beyond our home planet and Mars was one of the foremost contenders to be a planet, which the scientists assumed can harbor extraterrestrial life. However, a recent study has put an end to this possibility.
Although Mars had water about three billion years ago, it became inhabitable as all its water from the surface got absorbed into the crust of the planet, concluded a new study conducted by researchers from the Oxford University.
Since today's Mars is nothing but a dry and barren planet, it seems that the only Martians we can now encounter will be in science fiction. Previously it was believed that after Mars' magnetic field collapsed its surface water was sucked into space. However, the latest findings suggest that the water is still there but it's locked within the surface of the Red Planet due to some chemical reactions.
"On Mars, water reacting with the freshly erupted lavas that form its basaltic crust resulted in a sponge-like effect. This water-rock reaction changed the rock mineralogy and caused the planetary surface to dry and become inhospitable to life," stated Dr. Jon Wade, lead author of the study, which has been published in scientific journal Nature.
Small differences between other planets of our solar system and Earth determine why life forms could emerge and evolve on Earth and not on the other planets. In this case, the key distinction between Earth and Mars has been the presence of iron. "The biggest difference being that Mars has more iron in its mantle rocks, as the planet formed under marginally more oxidizing conditions," informed Dr. Wade.
It has been discovered that Mars' rocks could hold 25 percent more water than those of the Earth and these rocks were also capable of transporting that water into the Red Planet's crust, stated the study.
Earlier studies did find certain uncommon structures on the planet, which had suggested that Mars might have once accommodated very small living organisms on its surface; especially in the geysers and the hot springs, which do not exist on the planet anymore.
While the new study indicates that Mars is now merely a dry planet, according to another researcher from the Durham University, Professor Jim McElwaine, that is not entirely true. "We know there was lots of water on Mars in the past, billions of years ago. But we also know there's lots of water there now – in ice," he stated. Professor McElwaine has researched the possible sources of water on the Red Planet, although he was not a part of the latest study.
McElwaine stated that even if the rocks on the Mars didn't have the phenomenon of absorbing more water, the planet would still have lacked oceans, like the ones that we have on Earth, because of its different atmosphere, reported Independent. "The water would probably have just ended up in ice, or ended up in space," he added.