The scientific data and images beamed back by NASA’s Curiosity robotic rover suggest that planet Mars was once more Earth-like than previously thought. Scientists believe that it was a lot warmer than it is today, and it even had a complex hydrologic system that included lakes, rivers, streams, and deltas.
On Sept. 28, NASA confirmed that it has found strong evidence that the Red Planet has liquid water on its surface. Researchers were over thrilled with the announcement because they had a key piece of the puzzle for the planet’s geologic history.
A team from NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory recently found that Mars was once more Earth-like than previously thought since Curiosity has found traces of ancient lake beds, river deltas, and a significantly more hospitable climate than it is today.
The scientists also found that Mars once had large bodies of liquid water on its surface for impressively long periods of time. A paper on the new insights was published Thursday in the journal Science.
But the idea that the Red Planet had liquid water on large swaths of its surface at some point in its history is not new. The novelty is that the Mars Science Laboratory team found evidence that the planet’s craters were once capable of storing liquid water.
Researchersdetected clinoforms, or basin surfaces, in NASA’s robotic rover’s imagery. The geological features were not visible from space, so the satellites orbiting Mars were not able to provide any evidence on them. But Curiosity’s work is very similar to that of a human geologist.
The robotic rover has been exploring the Gale Crater since August 2012. The probe is especially focused on sedimentary rocks and other clues to the planet’s distant geologic past. NASA’s scientists studied these rocks and layers of sediments along clinoforms and noticed that basin surface is now higher despite erosion.
The finding suggests that the entire basin got higher because of more and more layers of sediments. Researchers also found on Gale crater’s northern wall clear traces of river deltas which point out at the presence of an ancient lake now drained.
Curiosity’s data also show that the planet had many more ancient lakes, and most of them survived thousands of years before going dry. Scientists believe that groundwater sources fueled these lakes, because otherwise they couldn’t last that long.
Additionally, a network of lakes means that the climate was much wetter. Rainfall must have also fueled the lakes in Gale crater with moisture and sediments.
Image Source: Wikimedia