Martian climate was life-friendly more recently than thought

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Washington, July 1 (ANI): In a new research, scientists have found evidence that indicates the Martian climate was life-friendly more recently than thought.

Matthew Balme, a research scientist with the Tucson-based Planetary Science Institute and a research fellow at the United Kingdom's Open University, discovered signs of melting permafrost in images from NASA's HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera, which is flying aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The images show that landforms once thought to be shaped by volcanism were actually modified by the expansion and contraction of ice due to freeze/thaw cycles, according to Balme.

Balme studied an outflow channel that was active as recently as 2 to 8 million years ago.

The channel contains polygonal patterns, branched channels, blocky debris and mound/cone formations, all of which are similar to formations found where permafrost melts on Earth.

"These observations demonstrate that ice melted near the Martian equator within the past few million years and then refroze," Balme said. "This probably happened over many freeze/thaw cycles," he added.

Since liquid water is essential to life as we know it, this equatorial channel would be an ideal place to hunt for traces of past or present Martian life, Balme added. (ANI)

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