LONDON (PTI): Mars has not always been red. At least that is the theory proposed by a scientist who has discovered a reason as to how the red planet got its rosy colour
According to Dr John Brandenburg, about 180 million years ago, a planet-shattering yet naturally occurring nuclear reaction may have wiped out everything on Mars, sending a shockwave that turned the red planet into dry sand.
"The Martian surface is covered with a thin layer of radioactive substances including uranium, thorium and radioactive potassium -- and this pattern radiates from a hot spot (on Mars). A nuclear explosion could have sent debris all around the planet.
"Maps of gamma rays on Mars show a big red spot that seems like a radiating debris pattern... on the opposite side of the planet there is another red spot," the propulsion scientist at Orbital Technologies Corp told the 'Fox News'.
According to Brandenburg, the natural explosion, the equivalent of one million one-megaton hydrogen bombs, occurred in the northern Mare Acidalium region of Mars where there is a heavy concentration of radioactivity.
This explosion filled the Martian atmosphere with radio isotopes as well, which are seen in recent gamma ray spectrometry data taken by NASA, he said, adding that the radioactivity also explains why the planet looks red.
Dr Brandenburg believes a natural nuclear reaction could have occurred on Earth -- and could happen again.
However, Dr David Beaty, Mars programme science manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said he finds the idea intriguing and fascinating. But he said that to prove the science, the agency would need to plan a mission to explore Mare Acidalium on Mars.