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A Third Of Mars Is Covered By Glass Deserts, No Sign Of Bikini-Wearing Princesses

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Glass rich sand dunes on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

A third of Mars is covered by glass deserts… so that must mean that there is/was life on the red planet, right? The whole life on Mars thing has gotten us so hyped up that every new piece of information learned about our orbiting sister makes us leap excitedly to that conclusion.

As more research comes in though, it’s looking more and more likely. Or at least, as more research comes in, people continue trying to interpret them in ways to make the signs point to “yes.”

The latest discovery? Glassy dunes with the characteristics of volcanic glass and obsidian cover a third of the planet. New Scientist says Briony Horgan and James Bell of Arizona State University believe these were formed by magma from volcanic eruptions solidifying rapidly after interaction with ice or water.

Weathering on the formations also show evidence of a constant flow of water, such as melting snow or ice. These landscapes are similar to glass deserts also found in Iceland and to the polar ice caps formed due to sub-glacial volcanoes and lakes. Thanks to the temperature and chemical rich water, such environments would have been the perfect place for microbes.

Similar formations in Iceland, image Courtesy Hansueli Krap

To clear things up to the overeager John Carter wannabes, don’t get excited quite yet. Just because Mars has a few glassy sand dunes doesn’t mean that there are hot Martian princesses strolling around in bikinis on them. It is only a possibility that Mars once had the possibility of hosting life, and it’s going to take a lot more research before we’ll have reason to believe it ever looked like this…


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