In February, the European Space Agency tweeted a photo taken from their Mars Express probe which revealed a system of trenches, valleys and dried out riverbeds. The discovery suggested the martian planet may have once harvested life in conditions that were much warmer and wetter than today. However, a new study published in Science Advance yesterday claims the Red Planet was actually covered in “intense rivers” much wider than those on Earth.
This complicates the picture for scientists trying to model the ancient Martian climate, according to lead author Edwin Kite, assistant professor of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago.
He said: “It’s already hard to explain rivers or lakes based on the information we have.
“This makes a difficult problem even more difficult.”
However, he added that the constraints could be useful in narrowing the many theories researchers have proposed to explain the climate.
Seeking a better understanding of how Mars would have looked, Dr Kite and his colleagues analysed photographs and elevation models for more than 200 ancient Martian riverbeds spanning over a billion years.
The width and the steepness of the riverbeds and the size of the gravel suggest the force and volume of the water flow.
Their analysis shows clear evidence for persistent, strong runoff that occurred well into the last stage of the wet climate.
Dr Kite added: “You would expect them to wane gradually over time, but that’s not what we see.
“The wettest day of the year is still very wet.
“[It is possible] the climate had an on/off switch.
“Our work answers some existing questions but raises a new one.
“Which is wrong: the climate models, the atmosphere evolution models, or our basic understanding of inner solar system chronology?”
Yesterday it was revealed how growing “fungi” was spotted in a Mars Curiosity Rover photo, sparking claims of life on the Red Planet.
What appears to be algae, kuchens and “Martian mushrooms” were all snapped, according to the Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science.
Dr Regina Dass, of the Department of Microbiology, School of Life Sciences, Indis, said: “There are no geological or other abiogenic forces on Earth which can produce sedimentary structures, by the hundreds, which have mushroom shapes, stems, stalks, and shed what looks like spores on the surrounding surface.
“In fact, fifteen specimens were photographed by NASA growing out of the ground in just three days.”
Dr Vincenzo Rizzo, a National Research Council biogeologist also points to the seasonal fluctuations in Martian methane as additional evidence of life.
He said: ”As we detail in our article, 90 percent of terrestrial methane is biological in origin and seasonal fluctuations in atmospheric methane are directly correlated with plant growth and death cycles.
“The cyclic fluctuations in Martian methane is reflective of active biology which is also depicted in before and after pictures of specimens photographed by NASA.”
However, the evidence is so controversial that the Journal of Astrobiology and Space Science Reviews subjected the article to extensive peer review by six independent scientists and eight senior editors.
While three of these rejected the evidence, the remaining eleven recommended publication, after certain revisions.