MUMBAI (TIP): In a significant discovery, glass has been found on Mars, throwing up the possibility of past life on the Red Planet, Nasa announced on Tuesday. The breakthrough was attained by Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which detected deposits of glass within impact craters on Mars.
“Though formed in the searing heat of a violent impact, such deposits might provide a delicate window into the possibility of past life on the Red Planet,” Nasa said.
According to Nasa, knowing that impact glass can preserve ancient signs of life – and now knowing that such deposits exist on the Martian surface today – opens up a potential new strategy in the search for ancient Martian life.
One of the craters contain ing glass, called Hargraves, is near the Nili Fossae trough, a 650-km-long depression that stretches across the Martian surface. The region is one of the landing site contenders for Nasa’s Mars 2020 rover, a mission to cache soil and rock samples for possible return to earth. Nasa states that Nili Fossae trough is already of scientific interest because the crust in the region is thought to date back to when Mars was a much wetter planet.
The region also is rife with what appear to be ancient hydrothermal fractures, warm vents that could have provided energy for life to thrive just beneath the surface.
During the past few years, research has shown evidence about past life has been preserved in impact glass on Earth. A 2014 study led by scientist Peter Schultz of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, found organic molecules and plant matter entombed in glass formed by an impact that occurred millions of years ago in Argentina. He suggested that similar processes might preserve signs of life on Mars, if they were present at the time of an impact.