Mars, though cold and dry now, may have once been covered in water, according to a new study. Cosmic impact on the Red Planet may have triggered deluge and scientists have for decades found evidence suggesting that the planet’s surface was once covered with rivers, streams, ponds, lakes, and perhaps even seas and oceans, as reported by Space.com.
Since life sustains everywhere on Earth where there is water, this history of water on the Red Planet raises the possibility that Mars was once home to life. However, despite the evidence for Red Planet water, scientists haven’t been able to figure out how Mars could have possessed this water during its early days.
The study mentions that during the Red Planet’s youth, the sun was cooler than it is now, and previous climate models suggested that Mars may have lacked enough greenhouse gases to trap enough heat to generate significant amounts of rainfall.
“Using sophisticated three-dimensional global climate-model simulations similar to the ones used, for example, to simulate global warming on Earth, we were able to simulate for the first time in three dimensions the climate change induced by the very large impacts that hit Mars about 4 billion years ago,” lead study author Martin Turbet, a planetary scientist and climatologist at the Sorbonne University in France, told Space.com.
The researchers focused on impacts from the largest rocks to ever hit Mars, ones more than 100 km across. These are big enough to explain the largest craters seen on the Red Planet, basins more than 600-km wide. But the new findings don’t explain some of the most notable water-created features on Mars: major valley networks south of the equator. Impact-related storms, however, likely peaked near the Martian equator. Previous research has also suggested that valley networks and the largest basins on Mars appear to have formed at different periods in the planet’s history.