Life could emerge deep under the surface of Mars as thick layers of ice melt due to geothermal heat, a new study conducted by Rutgers University in New Jersey, US, suggested on Wednesday.
According to the author of the study, Dr. Lujendra Ojha, the scientific team addressed a so-called faint young sun paradox - a theory suggesting that in the past, the Sun emanated around 30% less energy than it does now.
“Even if greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and water vapor are pumped into the early Martian atmosphere in computer simulations, climate models still struggle to support a long-term warm and wet Mars... At such depths, life could have been sustained by hydrothermal (heating) activity and rock-water reactions,” Ojha said. “So, the subsurface may represent the longest-lived habitable environment on Mars.”
During the research, scientists examined different Mars datasets to find out if geothermal heat was possible in the Noachian era.
It was concluded that even if Mars had a warm and wet climate around 4 billion years ago, liquid water may have been stable only at great depths, as the atmosphere thins and temperature lowers over time. Any alien life on the red planet, if it ever originated there, may have followed liquid water to greater depths, according to the study.
What could help scientists in assessing Mars' climate and possible heating is NASA's Mars InSight spacecraft that landed in 2018. The spacecraft takes daily measurements of the surface of the red planet.