Life on Earth is thought to have emerged sometime around 3.5 billion to 4 billion years ago, and new evidence suggests the story could've been similar on Mars, with life appearing perhaps even sooner. A new study by an international team of researchers asserts that conditions on the red planet could've allowed for life to start developing there as early as 4.48 billion years ago, not long after the Earth and Mars formed.
That's about the time Mars stopped being bombarded by giant, cataclysmic meteors that would/ve prevented life from taking hold. But it's also thought there was a later phase of bombardment on both planets that may've delayed the emergence of life even longer, perhaps until about 3.8 million years ago.
The new paper, in Nature Geoscience, analyzes ancient mineral grains thought to originate from Martian meteorites and finds that this so-called late heavy bombardment may not have had a total sterilizing effect on our neighboring world.
"Giant meteorite impacts on Mars between 4.2 and 3.5 billion years ago may have actually accelerated the release of early waters from the interior of the planet setting the stage for life-forming reactions," Western University's Desmond Moser, who led the research, said in a release.
The researchers also suggest that some sort of Martian life could've even thrived during this time period, when it's thought Mars was plenty wet.
"This work may point out good places to get samples returned from Mars," Moser says.
So though no bulletproof evidence of past or present Martian life has yet emerged, the search is clearly ongoing and narrowing in on promising targets. The truth is, indeed, out there.