Molten Mars may have prevented life to evolve on its surface

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Washington, July 23 (ANI): In a new research, scientists have found that the surface of Mars was molten for more than 100 million years after it formed, preventing any early life evolving on the planet.

According to a report in Discovery News, the findings are based on an analysis of rare Martian meteorites at NASA's Johnson Space Center in the US.

Co-author Craig O'Neill, of Macquarie University's Department of Earth and Planetary Science, said that the study overturns previous thought that the surface of Mars cooled within a few thousand years.

Instead, they found the planet remained a molten ball due to a "hyper-heated steamy atmosphere" that kept the surface temperature above more than 1000 degrees Celsius (1832 degrees Fahrenheit) for more than 100 million years.

O'Neill said this effectively sterilized the planet making it unlikely that any life form could evolve.

"It's difficult to see how any life could have evolved when 130 degree Celsius (266 degrees Fahrenheit) is the absolute maximum temperature extremophile bacteria on Earth can withstand," he said.

The findings are based on analysis of radioactive isotopes of rare elements in an ancient meteorite, known as nakhlite, after the place in Egypt where it was found.

According to O'Neill, the meteorites, which landed on Earth in the early 1900s, are known to have come from Mars because bubbles of gas trapped inside matched atmospheric samples taken during the Viking Mars mission in the late 1970s.

He said their study involved examining radioactive isotopes in the elements Hafnium, Lutetium and Neodymium.

The isotopes act like a geochronological clock, helping date when the magma ocean solidified.

Hafnium-182, in particular, is incredibly effective as a dating tool for when the core formed because it is an extremely short-lived isotope that decays into the metal Tungsten-182.

During planet formation, "Hafnium gets incorporated in the rocky minerals, while Tungsten gets sucked into the core with the other metals," said O'Neill.

"Once core formation finished, any more Tungsten-182 formed would be stuck in the rocks," he said.

He said that by measuring the amount of Tungsten-182 left in the rock, the team was able to date when core formation completed.

O'Neill said that when the magma ocean solidified, it would have overturned in a "lava lamp-like fashion".

"This would have led to a violent volcanic event that may have formed the Martian crust," he said.lthough evidence of water has been found on Mars, the study suggests life could only have begun evolving once the steamy atmosphere had dissipated. (ANI)

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