Long before Mars turned into the dry planet that we know it as today, there was once plenty of water on its surface, very much like Earth. To demonstrate this, scientists recently conducted research into the water bodies of three ancient lakes, with one of these large enough that it extended 50 miles, or 77 kilometers, across.
As Space reports, scientists believe that all three of these lakes on Mars would have formed quite differently from each other. It is believed that the first lake was created through large amounts of precipitation, while the second grew slowly from water that would have once ambled its way through the soil of the planet. The third lake is believed to have been formed by rivers pushing their way over the surface of Mars.
All three of the ancient lake beds that were studied on Mars can be found in an area that is known as Hellas Planitia, which is an enormous basin that is 23,465 feet deep and was created from a major impact, as the new study’s co-author, Virginia Gulick, a geoscientist at the SETI Institute, explained in a statement.
“We have found several groups of paleolakes with different geologic histories along each drainage system. Some of the inlet channels and their deposits are similar to those produced by flash floods. Some of these flood discharges may even have been catastrophic in magnitudes (~ several 105 – 106 m3/s) similar to those that formed the Channeled Scablands in eastern Washington state, while the morphology of other channels and valleys suggest much lower, longer duration discharges more like those of the Mississippi River. These hundreds-of-meters-wide channels cut across widespread ash-laden volcanic lava and impact-debris terrains across the interior slope of Hellas basin.”
Including the three lake beds that were studied, a total of 34 candidates of Martian paleolakes have been identified after scientists performed a hydrogeographic analysis that was centered around the Northeast Hellas region of the planet. This is notable as previously only one lake had been identified before now. With so many ancient lake beds on Mars, this shows that, hydrologically speaking, the planet was once much more active than had been thought.
“The lakes were fed by different hydrological processes, likely related to recurring hydrothermal activity from nearby volcanoes Hadriaca and Tyrrhena Paterae,” according to new research.
The new study on the identification of three ancient lake beds, with a total of 34 candidates, has been published in Astrobiology.