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15-Million-Year-Old Crater On Earth Reveals Clues About Mars' Watery Past

Published by Slashdot on Thu, 27 Feb 2020

Iwastheone shares a report from Space.com: Ries Crater, or Nordlinger Ries, is located in western Bavaria, Germany, and formed roughly 15 million years ago, when a meteorite struck. This site has incredibly well-preserved rocks and minerals that bear similarities to the Martian surface. Therefore, samples from this impact site on Earth may shed light on Mars' past, according to a new study. Today, Mars is too cold to host liquid water on its surface, which is a requirement for life as we know it on Earth. However, 4 billion years ago, Mars may have been warm enough for surface oceans and, possibly, life, according to the study. The researchers studied rock samples from Ries Crater, which was once a body of water. Their findings show that the samples have a high pH based on the ratio of nitrogen isotopes, as well as a high alkalinity, which indicates an imbalanced pH level, according to the study. NASA's Mars 2020 rover is planned to land in a similar, well-preserved ancient crater that is believed to have also contained liquid water in its past. The findings suggest that the Martian crater will have a chemical composition comparable to that of Ries Crater. Therefore, studying the alkalinity, pH and nitrogen content of samples from the Ries Crater could help the researchers better understand the properties of ancient water on Mars and, in turn, determine the amount of carbon dioxide that was in the planet's atmosphere billions of years ago. Although complex life is unlikely, simpler microorganisms could have survived if water on Mars had a neutral pH level and was highly alkaline, the researchers said in the statement. These conditions would indicate that the atmosphere had enough carbon dioxide to warm the planet and make liquid water possible, the scientists added.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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