According to a new study, there were gigantic megafloods on Mars about 4 billion years ago. NASA’s Curiosity Rover found that some geological features on the Red Planet were formed by wind and water. More specifically, the Gale Crater had once been bombarded with huge amounts of water.
Since there were megafloods on Mars billions of years ago, that could potentially mean that the planet was once habitable with the real possibility of life once existing there.
As for what caused the exceptionally high amounts of water, the new study claimed that it happened when an asteroid impacted the planet. The impact would have created high levels of heat which would have caused the ice to melt in addition to releasing methane and carbon dioxide that were hidden in the ice. The water vapor clouds would have dumped large amounts of rain onto Mars which would have been part of a short period of time when the planet had warmer and wetter conditions.
A combination of the rain as well as the water that was flowing down from Mount Sharp (the central peak inside of the crater) would have created major flash flooding in the Gale Crater. This raises the possibility that perhaps there was microbial life that once existed in the crater.
In fact, researchers from Jackson State University, Cornell, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Hawaii found sediment structures inside of the crater as well as 10 meter tall (32.8 feet) symmetrical gravel ridges that looked like “antidunes” that suggested megaflooding. They were able to calculate the distance between the crest on the ridges and found that they would have been formed by flood waters that were at least 24 meters in depth (78.7 feet) and moved up to 10 meters (32.8 feet) each second.
Alberto G. Fairén, who is an astrobiologist and a co-author of the study, explained this further, “Early Mars was an extremely active planet from a geological point of view. The planet had the conditions needed to support the presence of liquid water on the surface—and on Earth, where there’s water, there’s life,” adding, “So early Mars was a habitable planet. Was it inhabited? That’s a question that the next rover Perseverance will help to answer.”
The Perseverance rover was launched in July of this year and is scheduled to land on Mars in February of 2021. It will search for signs of ancient life on the planet in addition to collecting soil and rock samples that it will bring back to Earth for scientists to study.
Their research was published in the journal Scientific Reports where it can be read in full.
In other related news, major dust storms may have removed most of the water from Mars. Strong summer dust storms on the Red Planet could have thrown water high up into the atmosphere which would have destroyed the molecules and let the hydrogen travel into space. This may have had a significant impact on how Mars would have gone from a planet full of water to the dry, dusty world that it is today. The study was published in the journal Science where it can be read in full.