The Curiosity rover has found clear clues that there was once an ancient lake on Mars, NASA scientists announced Wednesday.
Last fall, NASA scientists thought they had seen the latest and greatest evidence that water once existed on the Red Planet when the rover reached an area known as the “sulfate-bearing 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 dried 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 in the entire mission,” Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told CNN. “We’ve climbed through thousands of feet of lake deposits and have never seen evidence like this – and now we’ve found it in a place we thought was dry.”
A new panorama of @MarsCuriosity provides some of the clearest evidence yet that ancient waves once lapped the shores of Martian lakes, in a region scientists never expected: https://t.co/kS4i8PWBgt pic.twitter.com/kzXtJRqLy6
—NASA (@NASA) February 9, 2023
The Curiosity team stumbled upon the clearest evidence yet of a shallow lake in the area, its waves stirring up sediment at the bottom of the lake to create rippled textures in the rocks currently observed by NASA scientists, according to an agency statement.
The sulfate-bearing unit, located in the foothills of the 3-mile-high Martian mountain known as Mount Sharp, has been a focal point for scientists who believe the location holds clues to how and why Mars became the frozen planet. today, the outlet reported.
“Mount Sharp is made up of layers, the oldest at the bottom of the mountain and the youngest at the top. As the rover ascends, it progresses along a Martian timeline, allowing scientists to study how Mars evolved from a planet that was more Earth-like in its ancient past, with a warmer climate and abundant water, to the freezing desert it is today. NASA’s statement read.
The wavy rocks were found about half a mile from Mount Sharp in an area scientists call the Marker Strip – so called because it looks like a thin layer of dark rock that contrasts sharply with the rest of the mount. Sharp, CNN reported. Within the band of markers are unusual rock textures that scientists believe indicate a recurring element of the weather cycle, such as dust storms, NASA said. (RELATED: Mars Reveals More Earthly Goodness in Stunning New Discovery)
“Wave ripples, debris flows and rhythmic layers all tell us that the story of wet to dry on Mars was not a simple one,” Vasavada said in the NASA release. “The ancient climate of Mars had a wonderful complexity, much like that of Earth.”
Curiosity has been traveling Mars since 2014.