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It didn't take long for Mars to become a potentially habitable world, a new study suggests.

The planet-formation process generates a lot of heat, so rocky worlds such as Mars and Earth are covered by oceans of molten rock shortly after they form. Life as we know it cannot get a foothold until these oceans freeze into a crust — and this apparently happened quite early on the Red Planet, the new study reports.  

"Already 20 million years after the formation of the solar system, Mars had a solid crust that could potentially house oceans and perhaps also life," study co-author Martin Bizzarro, director of the Center for Star and Planet Formation at the Natural National History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, said in a statement. [The Search for Life on Mars (A Photo Timeline)]

That's about 130 million years sooner than this key event occurred here on Earth, study team members said.

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Category: Science