The Curiosity rover has found clear indicators that there was an ancient lake on Mars, NASA scientists announced on Wednesday.
Last fall, NASA scientists believed they saw the last and best evidence that water once existed on the Red Planet when the rover reached an area known as the “sulfate-carrying unit” – a region of the planet rich in salty minerals. , NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement. At the time, scientists believed the rocks formed in the region as the planet was drying out. Now, however, the rover has given scientists the “clearest evidence yet” that the area was once dominated by an ancient lake.
“This is the best evidence of water and waves we’ve seen on the entire mission,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, according to CNN. “We’ve climbed hundreds of meters of lake deposits and we’ve never seen evidence like this – and now we’ve found it in a place we expected to be dry.”
A new panorama of @MarsCuriosity provides some of the clearest evidence yet that ancient waves have ever reached the shores of Martian lakes – in a region scientists didn’t expect: https://t.co/kS4i8PWBgt pic.twitter.com/kzXtJRqLy6
— NASA (@NASA) February 9, 2023
The Curiosity team has come across the clearest evidence yet that a shallow lake existed in the area, its waves churning up sediments on the lake floor to create rippled textures in the rocks now observed by NASA scientists, an agency statement said.
The sulfate-containing unit, located at the foot of the 3-mile-high Martian mountain known as Mount Sharp, has been a focal point for scientists who believe the site holds clues to how and why Mars became the frozen planet it is. today, the agency said.
“Mount Sharp is made up of layers, with the oldest at the base of the mountain and the youngest at the top. As the rover climbs, it progresses along a Martian timeline, allowing scientists to study how Mars evolved from a planet that was more like Earth in its ancient past, with a warmer climate and abundant water, to the icy wasteland that it is today,” read the NASA statement.
The undulating rocks were found about half a mile above Mount Sharp, in an area scientists call the Marker Band — so named because it appears as a thin layer of dark rock that contrasts starkly with the rest of Mount Sharp, CNN reported. . Within the Marker Band are unusual rock textures that scientists believe point to a recurring element in the climate cycle, such as dust storms, NASA indicated. (RELATED: Mars Reveals More Earth-Like Qualities in a Surprising New Discovery)
“Wave undulations, debris flows and rhythmic layering tell us that the wet to dry story on Mars was not a simple one,” Vasavada said in the NASA statement. “The ancient climate of Mars had a wonderful complexity, much like Earth’s.”
Curiosity has been roaming Mars since 2014.