Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Red hot and molten

New research published in the journal Nature Geoscience suggests that the planet spent a considerable period of time with its surface in a molten state, with temperatures in the region of 1000 degrees celsius curtailing the chances of life developing for at least the first 100 million years of its existence.

International scientists from the USA, Belgium, and Australia looked at a rare type of Martian meteorite called a Nakhlite (named after Nakhla in Egypt where the first one was found.) By measuring radioactive traces of exotic elements such as Hafnium, Lutetium, and Neodymium, the team were able to postulate that the early atmosphere would have been composed of a thick steam, keeping the surface trapped in a molten state.

Eventually the surface tipped over, allowing the crust to solidify. More detail can be found at