Current M.S. student Denise Buckner is a contributing author for an article now published in Nature’s Scientific Reports. The article is titled “The Oldest Highlands of Mars May Be Massive Dust Fallout Deposits.” She co-authored the astrobiology section.
This paper proposes that, early in Mars’ history, massive asteroid impacts could have lofted significant amounts of pre-existing dust into the atmosphere. These impacts would have also triggered “wet” climate conditions that would cause the suspended dust to be washed out of the atmosphere, probably as muddy rains, which helped form some of Mars’s most ancient highland landscapes. This would have occurred about 4 billion years ago during the onset of the Late Heavy Bombardment, a time when meteorites fell to the surface at the highest rate in the planet’s history. Some of these meteorites contained organic material, including the lipid (fat) molecules required for all life as we know it. This scenario has exciting astrobiological implications, because it could have provided the right environment (wet and muddy) and chemical ingredients (organic molecules) for life to potentially begin on Mars. Further investigations into these environments are needed to determine whether or not life is likely to have resulted from these geologic processes and whether or not it was preserved until today.
Find the article online here.