Mars may have once had a massive lake, according to recent data revealed by the Curiosity Mars rover. It has led scientists to believe that at one time Mars was much wetter than originally thought. Gale Crater is the location at which scientists believe a 96-mile-wide crater existed.
That crater, filled with water, was likely formed due to the build-up of sediment over an incredibly long period of time. At the heart of that crater was a large mountain. Scientists believe that if the lake were on the Red Planet – which it’s entirely possible that life existed, or had the potential to exist on it – at the very least.
Dr. Michael Meyer, of NASA noted that “The size of the lake in Gale Crater and the length of time and series that water was showing up implies that there may have been sufficient time for life to get going and thrive.” The scientists noted sandstone deposits were pointed in the direction of Mount Sharp, which would indicate that at one time water flowed toward the center of the crater.
Over the next several months Curiosity will be climbing Mount Sharp to make further observations of the planet and the specific region. Scientists noted that “We’ll also look at the chemistry of the rocks to see if the water that was once present would’ve been of the kind that could support microbial life, if it ever was present.”
The mountain that’s being studied rises roughly 3.4 miles from the center of the crater. Around Sharp is where the greatest information lies that scientists were able to get their hands on. Sanjeev Gupta – who is a member of the NASA team – pointed out that the small rivers leading from the Mountain to the crater where the lake likely was that “these are likely to be quite small, maybe a couple of meters water depth – so very, very small deltas, but certainly clear evidence that we’re building out, likely, into a standing body of water.”
The deposits are the first solid sign that scientists have had in some time that Mars very likely could have had a large body of water. This will give scientists new evidence and new leads to look at moving forward beyond this mission.