Living on different planets has always been a point of interest for us earthlings. Mercury, however, is the last planet that anyone would consider, since it is the closest planet to the sun.
A new study, published in Scientific Reports, claims that there is a very small chance that the sun’s neighbour was once habitable underground.
Speaking to The New York Times, co-author Jeffery Kargel from the Planetary Science Institute said, “It is possible that as long as there was water, the temperatures would be appropriate for the survival and possibly the origin of life”.
The research suggests that the planet’s interior once contained the basic ingredients for life. It supports its claim using Mercury’s “chaotic terrain”, which is a region that includes deep valleys, lengthy cracks, and sharp mountains.
When this chaotic terrain was first discovered, by NASA’s Mariner 10 spacecraft in 1974, scientists suggested that its existence was a result of celestial impact on the opposite side of the planet and of the earthquakes that the impact caused.
The new research, while pointing out several flaws in the original hypothesis, posits that the chaotic terrain is a result of volatile materials escaping the planets subsurface. These volatiles include compounds like water, methane, and nitrogen – and they are prerequisites for life. The existence of these compounds underground, suggests the possibility that Mercury’s subsurface was once an environment friendly to life.
Wrinkled terrain on Mercury shows that the planet may once have had warm geothermal springs.
Could simple life have evolved on Mercury? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. https://t.co/W2A4eFoLmn pic.twitter.com/lMmqj81eNJ
— Corey S. Powell (@coreyspowell) March 23, 2020
The idea of life on Mercury might sound crazy, and the scientists involved are aware of that. But, they remain faithful to the idea that it is (or at least was) possible.
“The more I dug into the geologic evidence and the more I thought about the chemistry and physical conditions there, the more I realized that this idea – well it might be nuts, but it’s not completely nuts,” said Kargel to The New York Times.
Picture: Twitter / HealthThoroughFare