Ridges on Mars have been identified as fossilized cracks formed from flowing water depositing minerals, making life on Mars a distinct possibility.
Researchers at Brown analyzed 4,000 ridges on Mars and used high-resolution images to determine how the ridges were formed. John Mustard, geology professor at Brown, explains cracks on Mars’ surface “filled with minerals” when water flowed through the cracks. Then, when the rock around these cracks eroded over the millennia, the minerals were left in place as “fossilized cracks.”
To the average citizen, this might mean absolutely nothing. But to Mustard, whose eyes light up at very thought, these fossilized ridges represent “microbial coffins” and a place where humans will find the first remains of Martian life.
“If we look at the tree of life,” Mustard says, “the most primitive organisms… are called Archaea… that live in hot springs.” When the cracks existed, they were ready-made “microbial condominiums” because they had the ideal environment and nutrient source for Archaea-like life forms.
Mustard thinks of the ridges as “microbial coffins.” To him, the area where he found the ridges “represents the largest, most long-lived habitable environment on the planet” and is thus the place to go when looking for life on Mars.
The rover currently on Mars is not headed for the ridges, so for the time being, Mustard hopes he can communicate to the world the importance of the ridges as habitats harboring denizens of the Martian subsurface; ready-made “microbial coffins” for humans to rob and see what treasures lie within.