Two new units of pictures from NASA and the European House Company (ESA) have revealed extra concerning the historical past of water on Mars. Scientists imagine that billions of years in the past, Mars had a thick, dense environment that trapped warmth and allowed liquid water to exist on the floor. They need to be taught extra about this era to see if there’s any means that liquid water would possibly nonetheless exist on the planet at present.
Above is a picture that was taken by the ESA’s Mars Specific, a spacecraft in orbit across the planet that has captured a dried-up river system known as Nirgal Vallis situated simply south of the equator. The river system stretches for practically 700 kilometers (435 miles) and was formed each by the movement of water by way of the rock and by impacts when meteorites hit the floor. You’ll be able to see the tree-like branching brought on by the river’s movement in addition to the spherical craters brought on by the impacts. The system is believed to be between three.5 and four billion years previous.
Across the similar time, three.5 billion years in the past, the floor of the Gale Crater was very completely different too. This crater, additionally situated close to the equator, is the place the Curiosity rover is at the moment exploring. The rover has captured this picture of a community of cracks within the floor, suggesting there was as soon as mud on this location which cracked because it dried. This offers additional proof that there have been as soon as lakes on this space.
Positioned throughout the Gale Crater is the large Mount Sharp, which Curiosity is slowly climbing. The steep sides of the mountain permit scientists to view completely different layers of bedrock, studying concerning the Martian setting over time. The rover is at the moment in an space known as the “clay-bearing unit” due to the presence of clay minerals there, however it’s going to quickly be transferring on to the “sulfate-bearing unit.” There look like completely different layers on this new space, which may have fashioned in drier circumstances which got here later in Mars’ historical past.
Within the subsequent few years, Curiosity will make its means by way of the sulfate-bearing unit to analyze these layers up shut, with the hopes of understanding how they match into the environmental historical past of Mars.