Life on Mars: That's why it wasn't meant to be


Science

Life on Mars: Study answers ‘long-standing question’

It is clear that Mars was never concerned with life.

Foto: Getty Images / MARK GARLICK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY




09/21/2021 – 07:34

A new study suggests that life on Mars may never have been a long-term option. The reason for this is the size of the planet.

Organizations and scientists around the world have been examining the surface of the Red Planet for decades. There they search for liquid water, looking for clues to what was once primitive Life on Mars And about the ways of colonizing the planet. All of these points are related to the assumption that Mars is similar to Earth. In fact, its difference from ours seems to be the deciding factor – especially its size.


Life on Mars: It All Depends on Size

A recently published study suggests that the difference in size between Mars and Earth could largely be responsible for their hostility to life today. After all, the diameter of the planet is only 53 percent of the diameter of the Earth. Accordingly, it is impossible for him to permanently retain volatile substances that were necessary for life on Mars.

“The fate of Mars was decided from the beginning,” And therefore Kun Wang, associate professor of Earth and planetary sciences at the University of Washington and lead author of the research. “There would likely be a threshold for the size of rocky planets to contain enough water to allow life and plate tectonics, with a mass exceeding that of Mars.”

she has study veröffentlichten Wang und sein Team in den Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

Martian meteorites allow a glimpse into the past

The reason for the much lower amounts of volatile elements in disparate planets than in undifferentiated primordial meteorites is a “long-standing question,” adds Katharina Luders, a research professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Washington and co-author of the study. . In their work, the researchers used: Inside the stable isotope of the element potassium (K). With their help, they wanted to estimate the distribution and frequency of volatile elements on different planets.

“Martian meteorites are the only samples we have available to study the chemical composition of the Martian mass,” Wang said. “These Martian meteorites are hundreds of millions to 4 billion years old and record the history of the fluctuating evolution of Mars. By measuring isotopes of moderately volatile elements such as potassium, we can determine the degree to which volatile elements are depleted on Mars and make comparisons between different bodies of the solar system.”

Water on Mars – how much was there?

It is indisputable that there is liquid water on the surface of Mars. “But it is difficult to determine the total amount of water present on Mars from remote sensing studies and rovers alone,” Wang said. There are several models for the total water content of Mars. In some of them, early Mars was wetter than Earth. “We don’t think that’s the case.”

The researchers found that the findings could have an impact on the search for life on Mars and other planets. “This study confirms that there is a very limited size range for planets with enough, but not too much, water to develop a habitable surface environment,” explains Klaus Mezger of the Center for Space and Habitat at the University of Bern.

Quelle: “Potassium isotopic composition of Mars reveals mechanism of volatile retention on planet Earth” (2021, PNAS); University of Washington

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