Mars has experienced a massive earthquake that scientists believe could indicate there is life on the Red Planet.
Researchers have tracked a series of boulder falls on the Martian surface that is uncannily similar to the deadly 2009 quake in L’Aquila, Italy. This, argue the boffins, suggests there are active volcanoes and reservoirs of water on Mars that could sustain life.
The evidence harvested by scientists at the University of London consists of photographs taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The pictures feature boulders – some as high as 65ft — scattered over a radius of 62 miles, along Mars’ Cerberus Fossae faults. The rocks are arranged in a radial pattern, becoming less frequent towards the outer edges of what seems to be a boulder fall.
This could mean Mars experiences earthquakes (well, Marsquakes) with an epicentre, like those we have on our own planet. Lead author of the study Gerald Roberts told Space.com:
“This is consistent with the hypothesis that boulders had been mobilized by ground-shaking, and that the severity of the ground-shaking decreased away from the epicenters of marsquakes.”
The significant area covered by displaced rocks has helped the scientists estimate the quake’s magnitude at 7 — that’s the same as the 2010 quake in Haiti, where up to 300,000 people died.
And the Marsquake was relatively recent as well, because the fierce Martian winds have yet to erase tracks left by the boulders. Indeed, they believed quakes still occur on Mars today.
How do quakes suggest life? Well, the presence of earthquakes suggests active volcanos exist on Mars. The heat from these volcanos could conceivably melt parts of the planet’s subterranean ice, forming liquid water that life could develop in.