NASA’s Curiosity rover paints ancient Mars as a water-rich paradise

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Curiosity scientists published the findings in a Nature Geoscience paper describing the cycle of overflow and drying up of the Gale crater that could have repeated itself numerous times over millions of years. The car-sized rover is now in the process of scaling Mount Sharp, the huge landmass smack in the center of the Gale Crater.

The network of cracks in this Martian rock slab called "Old Soaker" may have formed from the drying of a mud layer more than 3 billion years ago.

Per the report, the NASA Curiosity detected high levels of sulfate salts among the rocks found inside the Gale Crater and could very well prove that there were oceans on Planet Mars in the past.

Scientists would like to understand how long this transition took and when exactly it occurred.

The study also found sulfates located in the shallow sections at the fringes of the Gale Crater, meaning there may have been "segmentation of the Gale lake into discrete ponds, including those where extremely evapo-concentrated brines might form". Ultimately water and wind crammed within the crater and the hardening sediment, carved by wind, created the Mount Sharp geological formation that the Curiosity Rover is scaling proper now.

A range of salts have been found on Mars in different locations. Now exposed on the mountain's slopes, each layer reveals a different era of Martian history and holds clues about the prevailing environments at the time.

"'We went to Gale Crater because it preserves this queer file of a changing Mars", acknowledged lead creator William Rapin of Caltech. "Understanding when and the way the planet's local weather began evolving is a chunk of one other puzzle: When and the way lengthy was Mars able to supporting microbial life on the floor?"


Typically, when a lake dries up entirely, it leaves piles of pure salt crystals behind.

The findings suggest the salts were deposited in a wet environment, like one dotted by shallow, briny ponds. Older rocks that Curiosity analyzed didn't have such concentrations of these salts. Rapin urged the saline lakes on South America's excessive planes, that are additionally identified by their distinct reddish look, would possibly provide a basic thought.

"We're discovering a reality of climatic fluctuations, between wetter and drier periods, that informs us on the types of ions, such as sulphur, a basic ingredient for life, that were available in water running on the surface at the time, and what type of environmental change life had to cope with if it ever existed then", Mr Rapin continued.

What Mars may have looked like.

Curiosity landed on the floor of Mars in 2012, the place it has collected samples and studied the planet's local weather and geology for over 2,600 consecutive days, far surpassing its preliminary two-year mission.

"We can't say whether we're seeing wind or river deposits yet in the clay-bearing unit, but we're comfortable saying is it's definitely not the same thing as what came before or what lies ahead", he added.

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