Mars may have been a seething cauldron for nearly a 100 million years after its formation, thwarting evolution of life on the planet, according to an analysis of meteorites.
The research has shown that the red planet remained excessively hot - with temperatures over 1,000 degrees Celsius - for 100 million years following its formation.
A team of scientists from the US, Belgium, and Australia and workers at NASA's Johnson Space Centre, studied the radioactive clocks ticking away in a particularly rare and ancient type of Martian meteorite called a Nakhlite (named after Nakhla in Egypt).
"We were able to reconstruct the time scale for Mars' earliest evolution," said Craig O'Neill, planetary scientist at Macquarie University.
"Our measurements are up to 20 times more accurate than previous studies, so we've really been able to nail the time scale," O'Neill said."
Contrary to the popular belief that it only took a few thousand years for Mars to cool and solidify from an initially molten ball, their study suggests that there was a thick steam atmosphere on Mars very early in the planet's history that kept the surface a magma ocean for 100 million years - and essentially sterile the whole time.
"The toughest extremophile bacteria on Earth can withstand up to 130 degrees Celsius, so that makes it very difficult to see how life could have evolved under the conditions on primeval Mars," said O'Neill.
"The conditions for life wouldn't have existed, unless you could really handle the heat," he added. These results were recently published in Nature Geoscience.