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When life was just beginning to emerge on Earth, nearby Mars could also have been a watery world shrouded in a dense atmosphere that could have supported life.
One of the reasons water no longer flows on Mars's surface is because its atmosphere is less than 1% of the density of the Earth's.
But Professor Josef Dufek, of Georgia Tech university, looked at a crater left by a rock fragment around 3.5 billion years ago, found by Mars Rover Spirit - and realised from the depth of the crater that the atmosphere must once have been much thicker.
‘Our study is consistent with growing research that early Mars was at least a transiently watery world with a much denser atmosphere than we see today.
An earlier study found gypsum on Mars - indicating there was once water on Mars and the possibility of life.
Journal Science reports that the gypsum could only have been formed in water below 60 c and writes: ‘That means that conditions conducive to life once existed on the edge of the crater.’