Mars 'ghost' dunes may have evidence of alien life - World Truth

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Mars 'ghost' dunes may have evidence of alien life

Day and her co-author David Catling, an astrobiologist at the University of Washington, observed that these "ghost dunes" are similar in size and scope to the active dune fields on the Red Planet, making it likely the pits are indeed dunes. 

"Any one of these pits is not enough to tell you that it's a dune, or from an ancient dune field," Day added. "But when you put them all together, they have so many commonalities with dunes on Mars and on Earth that you have to employ some kind of fantastic explanation to explain them as anything other than dunes."

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Day and Catling estimate that the dunes were buried approximately 2 billion years ago, during either the Hesperian period or Amazonian period. The Hesperian period is significant, researchers say, because that is when the planet's climate changed from a wet environment, with "with flowing water and active volcanoes," to the arid-like and wind-swept climate currently seen on the planet.

It's unclear why the climate changed, but Space.com reports that the atmosphere thinned out, which would make it impossible for water to flow.

"The fact that the wind was different [when the ghost dunes formed] tells us that the environmental conditions on Mars aren't static over long timescales, they have changed over the past couple billion years, something we need to know to interpret the geology on Mars," Day added in the statement.

Day noted the chances of life being inside the ghost dunes are remote, but it could offer insight into the planet's early days and help researchers understand how large features formed.

“There is probably nothing living there now," Day said. "But if there ever was anything on Mars, this is a better place than average to look.”

Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia