A team of astronomers have announced findings that seem to confirm that water once flowed on Mars, and may have even formed lake beds across the surface of the planet.
A newly published report, drawing from data collected by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), finds that an crater on Mars may have hosted an ancient lake, the first of its kind ever discovered.
The image shows the McLaughlin Crater, estimated to be 57-mile-wide and 1.4 miles deep, which researchers posit may have been low enough to allow underground water to well up into its bowl. The depths of the ancient lake show signs that water once collected, leaving deposits of mineral-rich elements that some say could be breeding grounds for life.
“Taken together, the observations in McLaughlin Crater provide the best evidence for carbonate forming within a lake environment instead of being washed into a crater from outside,” said Joseph Michalski, lead author of the paper.
While NASA sound a note of caution, the space agency said the findings were important for the fact they confirm the agency’s Curiosity rover is searching for the correct signs.
“Some researchers propose the crater interior catching the water,” said MRO scientist Rich Zurek, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, adding that “the underground zone contributing the water could have been wet environments and potential habitats.”
The study notes that a series of rivers seem to flow either into or from the lake, adding to the conclusion that water once collected in the bottom of the crater. Furthermore, researchers noted evidence showing the edge of the crater with marks consistent with the lapping line of a shoreline.
Most importantly the study is the latest bit of evidence supporting the theory that water once flowed across the surface of Mars. A number of recent studies of the Red Planet have reached a similar conclusion, and it now seems it is up to space agencies around the world to discover exactly where the water resides.
Scientists say evidence of water will likely increase the odds of finding life on other planets. Discovering how life can to evolve in the solar system could increase our understanding of how life can to be on Earth, say scientists.