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Cold and wet early Mars: Proposing and testing a new theory to understand the early Martian environments

Cold and wet early Mars: Proposing and testing a new theory to understand the early Martian environments

Objective

Geologic evidence indicative of flowing and ponding liquid water on the surface of ancient Mars appears abundantly across most of the Martian landscape, indicating that liquid water was present in variable amounts and for long periods of time on and/or near the surface at different moments of Mars’ early history, the Noachian era. Early Mars appears to have been “wet”. However, the presence of liquid water on the surface of early Mars is difficult to reconcile with the reduced solar luminosity at 3.8 Ga. and before, which would have imposed mean temperatures below freezing all over the planet. Atmospheric greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide ice clouds in the upper troposphere are suggested to provide over freezing temperatures, explaining some of this discrepancy, but these solutions have been probed to face numerous problems. So, it is difficult to explain the early Martian hydrology invoking global “warm” conditions. Here I propose to conduct interdisciplinary investigations in order to define and test a new hypothesis to understand the early environmental traits on Mars: that the young Martian surface was characterized by global mean freezing conditions, as predicted by climate models, and at the same time a vigorous hydrogeological cycle was active during hundreds of millions of years, as confirmed by geomorphological and mineralogical analyses. The aim of this investigation is to comprehensively analyze the triggers, traits and consequences of a cold aqueous environment dominating the Noachian, studying the geomorphological, mineralogical and geochemical evidences that such a hydrological cycle would have left behind, and also proposing new paths for the astrobiological exploration of Mars on the basis of geochemical and geomicrobiological studies in cold aqueous environments. Mission-derived datasets will be used to test hypotheses through paleogeomorphological reconstructions, theoretical modeling and experiments in the laboratory.
Leaflet | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, Credit: EC-GISCO, © EuroGeographics for the administrative boundaries

Principal Investigator

Alberto Gonzalez Fairen (Dr.)

Host institution

AGENCIA ESTATAL CONSEJO SUPERIOR DEINVESTIGACIONES CIENTIFICAS

Address

Calle Serrano 117
28006 Madrid

Spain

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 1 039 318

Principal Investigator

Alberto Gonzalez Fairen (Dr.)

Administrative Contact

Guillermo Sanjuanbenito García (Mr.)

Beneficiaries (2)

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AGENCIA ESTATAL CONSEJO SUPERIOR DEINVESTIGACIONES CIENTIFICAS

Spain

EU Contribution

€ 1 039 318

UNIVERSIDAD AUTONOMA DE MADRID

Spain

EU Contribution

€ 371 882

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 307496

Status

Closed project

  • Start date

    1 January 2014

  • End date

    31 December 2018

Funded under:

FP7-IDEAS-ERC

  • Overall budget:

    € 1 411 200

  • EU contribution

    € 1 411 200

Hosted by:

AGENCIA ESTATAL CONSEJO SUPERIOR DEINVESTIGACIONES CIENTIFICAS

Spain