JPL/NASA
Off World

Mars’ Ancient Lakes: Further Proof The Red Planet Once Had Water

The water wouldn't have tasted great, but it still may have supported life.

Andy PalmaAugust 9th 2016

Abundant Waters

The Curiosity rover has been exploring the surface of Mars since the year 2012 to determine whether life ever existed on the Red Planet. Since NASA first released an announcement confirming strong evidence that liquid water flowed on Mars, scientists have exerted extra efforts to investigate the mysterious streaks found on the planet’s surface.

The dark, narrow streaks on Mars were inferred to be have been formed by flowing waters. Source: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Source: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Researchers at the Open University and University of Leicester recently published a study in Meteoritics & Planetary Science providing stronger evidence to support this hypothesis. They used the Curiosity rover investigations as their basis for the study and concluded that the mineral veins found in Mars’ Gale Crater were formed by the evaporation of ancient lakes as sediments from these lakes were buried, heated to about 50°C, and corroded.

Nurturing Life

The study suggests that the waters from this area would have been habitable, although the water’s taste would be unpleasant, “with about 20 times the content of sulphate and sodium than bottled mineral water…,” according to Professor John Bridges of the University of Leicester, Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The findings enthused the professor, though. He raised the fact that “some microbes on Earth do like sulphur and iron-rich fluids because they can use those two elements to gain energy. Therefore, for the question of habitability at Gale Crater the taste of the water is very exciting news.”

As for Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity Project Scientist from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “these results provide further evidence for the long and varied history of water in Gale Crater. Multiple generations of fluids, each with a unique chemistry, must have been present to account for what we find in the rock record today.”

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