Dec 10, 2014 03:30 PM EST
Ever imagine that the red planet's surface may once have had a different appearance? Well while researchers at NASA have had rovers scoping out Mars' surface for years, new information received from NASA's Curiosity Rover suggests that the planet's craters may once have served a different purpose, and that the arid red planet may once have had long-lasting above ground lakes. Though new evidence challenges the popular theory that water on the planet only existed in the liquid form underground in aquifers, evidence of above ground lakes would undoubtedly mean that the planet was much more likely to sustain life some time ago.
The key to the new theory posited by NASA researchers comes from the red planet's Gale Crater, where the 3 mile tall Mount Sharp revealed a heterogeneous mixture of sediments-some very similar to those deposit by a surrounding lake bed. The striated pattern captured by the Curiosity Rover suggests that the tall mountain may have been formed when Gale Crater once filled with sediment from deltas, wind and lake deposits, later formed by eroding winds.
Evidence not only points to that, but also that the large lake of Gale Crater, or more plausible series of lakes that may have once existed in Mars' many craters, may have been seasonally reformed and refilled.
The plausible existence of water once on the surface of Mars means that the planet's surrounding atmosphere would have had to have much different than it is now. Warmer and heavier, with far more shielding than the planet currently has, NASA scientists believe that Mars' early atmosphere may have once been suitable for water formations. But still, scientists from international space agencies remain unsure of how the atmosphere formed, or why it changed.
Water on the surface of Mars would be a large indicator that the planet may have once been host to some forms of life, and would undoubtedly give researchers greater hope in finding signs of life. But as of yet, NASA researchers do not yet have enough data to indicate exactly how long the water was around, or whether or not it was there long enough to spark the formation of life in that time.
"The great thing about a lake that occurs repeatedly, over and over, is that each time it comes back it is another experiment to tell you how the environment works" Curiosity Rover project scientists, John Grotzinger says. "As Curiosity climbs higher on Mount Sharp, we will have a series of experiments to show patterns in how the atmosphere and the water and the sediments interact."
"We may see how the chemistry changed in the lakes over time. This is a hypothesis supported by what we have observed so far, providing a framework for testing in the coming year."
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