The Curiosity rover has found a lake bed on Mars several miles wide, one that scientists believe may have once been teeming with life. The Mars rover found evidence for the crater lake inside the 96 mile wide Gale Crater, an area it has been exploring since it touched down in August 2012.
The lake uncovered by the Curiosity rover could be a breakthrough in investigating the life that may have once existed on Mars.
“This lake was large enough it could have lasted millions of years — sufficient time for life to get started and thrive, sufficient time for lake sediments to build up and form Mount Sharp,” said Michael Meyer, Mars Exploration Program lead scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
The landscape today is try and barren, but researchers believe that runoff from the crater rim created in the lake built up to become Mount Sharp, which rises 3.4 miles from the crater’s center.
Sanjeev Gupta, a member of Curiosity mission’s science team from Imperial College London, said uncovering the history of Mount Sharp has been difficult, but is starting to come together.
“We’re now in a position where the jigsaw puzzle is beginning to come into view,” he said Monday at a NASA teleconference.
The Curiosity rover lake may radically change ideas about the water on Mars. Scientists once believed that the climate on Mars was so cold and harsh that water only existed in certain pockets.
“If our hypothesis for Mount Sharp holds up, it challenges the notion that warm and wet conditions were transient, local or only underground on Mars,” Vasavada said. “A more radical explanation is that Mars’ ancient, thicker atmosphere raised temperatures above freezing globally, but so far we don’t know how the atmosphere did that.”
Scientists say the Curiosity rover has more work in the lake bed, but they hope that the mystery of life on Mars will soon come into a clearer view.
[Image via NASA]