June 25th, 2010
09:55 AM ET

Mars once covered in water, space agency says

The European Space Agency says puddles and lakes of water like these likely existed during the early days on Mars.

Conditions favorable to life may once have existed all over Mars, the European Space Agency said Friday.

Two spacecraft have found evidence that liquid water was widespread over the red planet.

The ESA's Mars Express and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have discovered hydrated silicate minerals in the northern lowlands of Mars, a clear indication that water once flowed there, the ESA said.

The two spacecraft had previously found thousands of small outcrops in the planet's southern hemisphere where rock minerals had been altered by water, it said. Many of these outcrops are in the form of hydrated clay minerals known as phyllosilicates. They indicate the planet's southern hemisphere was once much warmer and wetter than it is today.

No such sites had been found in the northern lowlands until this week, the ESA said. The northern lowlands are covered in thick blankets of lava and sediments up to several kilometers thick and that had hampered efforts to probe what lay beneath.

The ESA's Mars Express found the first hints of water in the northern plains, but the outcrops were small and more detailed observations were needed to confirm the evidence, the ESA said.

NASA's Orbiter provided higher resolution data that showed at least nine northern craters with phyllosilicates or other hydrated silicates, the ESA said. The finding was reported this week in the journal Science.

Those minerals formed in wet environments and were identical to those found in the southern hemisphere.

"We can now say that the planet was altered on a global scale by liquid water more than 4 billion years ago," said the report's lead author, John Carter of the University of Paris.

Scientists said it's difficult to draw conclusions about the type of environment that existed on Mars when it had water, but they do have some clues.

The sites "are rich in iron and magnesium, but less in aluminum. Together with the close proximity of olivine, which is easily modified by water, this indicates that the exposure to water lasted only tens to hundreds of millions of years," said Jean-Pierre Bibring, the OMEGA principal investigator from the University of Paris.

The scientists' search concentrated on 91 sizeable craters where incoming asteroids have punched down the planet's surface by several kilometers, exposing "ancient crustal material," the ESA said.

The results could also suggest sites for future Mars landers, because evidence of water during the planet's early history suggests conditions in those spots may have been favorable to the evolution of primitive life, the ESA said.

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soundoff (126 Responses)
  1. laura

    tell Buzz Aldridge to stay home, nobody wants his opinions or to see him "dance" he's old history

    June 25, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jason D

    If there was water on mars where did it go..it has enough of a gravity to hold even the moisture there but nothing..so wheres it at..deep in the ground..but why would it be sucked into the ground and not in the stmosphere..condensation?...or did something hit it with such a blow that it not only immediatly evaperated the water but that it sent it out of gravities pull?..and if so does that mean theres moisture in space from these former water planets.if its all under the ground thats a lot of water and a wierd planets core if its water...questions questions questions

    June 25, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. toronado

    I believe in god just not that Jesus was one. im out

    June 25, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kimmie J

    Maybe it is possible that a form much like human race once existed on Mars, perhaps 100 million years ago, then vanished.

    June 25, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kimmie J

    Maybe martians once had a very advanced technology and the nuclear war heads that were much more powerful and advanced than ours 100 million years ago, then destroyed themselves completely and the atmosphere. Are we from there?

    June 25, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. turd

    scientists can find water on mars, but can't find tupac or biggies killers? That's 100% proof the white man don't give a rats @ss about blacks!

    June 26, 2010 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. Smith in Oregon

    Must have been a disgusting pack of Republican's on Mar's also. Likely they either started a world wide holocaust or poisoned the water and water table to make a quick martian dollar before moving on like locusts.

    June 26, 2010 at 2:35 am | Report abuse |
  8. lookin to race


    June 27, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JB

    What about fishes, plants, animals and a race of little green people?

    July 2, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tech

    MARS was once a sister planet to earth. pulled out of orbit by a meteor instantly causing it to lose its atmosphere and.. WATER. there are colonies deep inside mars as we speak. the TESLA COIL picked up martin transmissions.. ever notice the three "Mountains" on mars are identical to the Three pyramids in Egypt?? and on both Planets they line up perfect with orion's belt.. . think im crazy?? think im one of those nut jobs with a tinfoil hat ?? do some research and you'll find out..... ie- MONTAUK PROJECT, TESLA COIL.

    July 13, 2010 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
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