Mars is in the spotlight again. New evidence published in the journal Science suggests that lakes might have once existed on the surface of the planet at the Gale Crater, where the Curiosity Rover is currently located.
Image suggesting what the Gale Crater lake looked like. Photo credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS.
The discovery of salty water on Mars last month had already captured the attention of scientists worldwide. It seems that Mars is now opening up more and more to us. New research hints at the presence of lakes on the planet in the past.
The idea of lakes on Mars is not new. But, this is the fist time that direct observations on the ground have been recorded. The discovery was made by the Curiosity Rover which has been analysing the geology of the Gale Crater.
The Gale Crater, 140 kilometers wide, might have stored water for thousands of years long ago, according to the new research that primarily involves the study of clinoforms, the ordering of sediments on the lake’s bed.
The sediment deposits might be behind the huge mountain called Mount Sharp that stretches up to 5 kilometers high from Gale’s center. It is said that the mountain formed when deposits were brought to the middle part of the crater by wind erosion; the surface of the crater basin would have risen over time as more and more sediments deposited. Some of these allegedly originated from the northern crater wall where gravel and sand were shifted to the southern areas in shallow streams.
“This intracrater lake system probably existed intermittently for thousands to millions of years, implying a relatively wet climate that supplied moisture to the crater rim and transported sediment via streams into the lake basin,” write the scientists.
The layering of rocks that was observed might have begun with rivers that would bring sediment. These rivers would ultimately lead to a body of water, like a lake. Or so suggests the analysis of the 75-meter-thick layers of sediments in the rock at the location of Curiosity.
The water must have been stored in a water table underground which would have been tens of meters deep through which the lake might also have been connected to other lakes.
Now, if this lake did exist, when did it exist? Scientists do not yet have a clear answer. The sediment itself might have deposited between 3.6 and 3.2 billion years ago.
The new papers mentioning the evidence of water on Mars might make a good case for extraterrestrial life on the planet.