Research, Technology

Curiosity rover discovers traces of ancient lake on Mars

According to official science, on Mars, beforethe planet lost its atmosphere, there were many rivers and lakes, but subsequently almost all the water evaporated or even turned to stone. It's hard to believe, but once upon a time on the Red lifeless planet even waves beat, the same as on the surface of earth's rivers and lakes. The traces of these waves were discovered by the NASA Curiosity Mars rover - they look like small ripples on a rocky surface that was once the bottom of a large lake. According to scientists, in the entire history of the study of Mars, they have not yet seen such bright marks on the rocks, proving the presence of water billions of years ago.

The ripples on the rocky surface are proof that there was once water on Mars.

Curiosity rover's new find

Since last fall, a NASA rover has been exploring the area,what scientists call "sulphate-bearing" rock in Gale Crater. One of the main goals of the rover is to find out if this area could be habitable for bacteria. Last December, while descending from the slope of Mount Sharp, the rover managed to detect traces of ripples.

Despite the fact that the rover has already exploredWith a huge amount of rock deposits laid in ancient lakes, scientists have never seen such clear marks on the rocks on Mars, as reported in a NASA statement. But, the most interesting thing is that the ripples were found in the area, which, according to scientists, should have been dry.

The thing is that the layers of rocks hereformed in drier conditions than the regions explored earlier in the mission. Scientists believed that sulfates, that is, salty minerals, were formed when the water was almost completely dry, with the exception of small streams.

So the team was very surprised whendiscovered the clearest evidence of ancient water ripples. These small waves on the bottom were formed when the winds created waves on the surface of the lake, causing the sediment on the bottom to constantly fluctuate. According to the researchers, understanding what happened to the water in the Martian lake is also one of the tasks of the mission.

The area with ripples was found in the Markernayastrips”, about 0.8 km from Mount Sharp, which consists of a “layered stone cake”. This band is a real timeline that keeps Martian history. About 5 km high, the mountain was once rich in lakes and streams, according to NASA reports. This makes it a good place, according to researchers, to search for signs of ancient Martian life.

A shot of the Curiosity rover with a valley in the background

On December 16, 2022, the rover madeA 360-degree panorama of the rock layer on the slope, and also tried to get a soil sample to make an analysis. However, the rock turned out to be so hard that Curiosity's attempts were unsuccessful. Therefore, now the researchers plan to search for softer rock that the rover can drill.

Did the climate often change on Mars?

The ripples on the rocky surface aren't the only onesthe discovery of the rover, which attracted the attention of scientists. Curiosity has also found some rocks that have repeating rock layers of roughly the same thickness. Scientists are currently investigating these rocks, however, they are thought to be associated with ancient dust storms.

Alternating layers, according to researchers,say that the climate often changed from dry to wet, and vice versa. Moreover, this happened periodically with the same time interval and quite abruptly. Scientists often find layers of this type on Earth. They also arose during periodic climate changes. According to the researchers, the ancient Martian climate was surprisingly complex, and at the same time very similar to Earth.

In Gale Crater, the climate once changed in the same way as on Earth

Curiosity is currently continuingexplore the "Marker Strip". NASA scientists hope the rover will soon be able to explore the wind-carved valley known as Gediz Valley, which sits high on Mount Sharp. The valley contains debris from landslides and a channel that may have been formed by a river.

Since the resulting pile of debris ison top of all other layers in the valley, it is one of the youngest features on this mountain. Curiosity saw the debris twice last year on the Gediz Vallis Ridge, but was only able to see it from a distance. The study of the debris will allow us to learn even more about the events that took place billions of years ago in the Gale crater, and in general on the Red Planet.

You will find even more interesting materials on our YANDEX.ZEN CHANNEL. Subscribe soon so you don't miss out on the fun!

Finally, we recall that water on Mars, according to scientists, existed for one billion years longer than previously thought. This suggests that there was a time for the origin of life on the Red Planet.