A groundbreaking new discovery on the Red Planet could alter our understanding of this mysterious world, and our search for life on it.
Scientists have just made a big, big discovery on the Martian surface after diving into the reams of data collected by the Mars Curiosity rover deployed by NASA years ago. Researchers determined that there was once an ancient lake on Mars that behaved very much like an Earth lake, with different parts of the lake offering suitable conditions for different types of microbes.
It’s a huge surprise to scientists and a promising sign that life could have once existed on our neighbor. The findings are based on the first three and a half years of data from the Curiosity rover, and they were published in the journal Science with the title, “Redox stratification of an ancient lake in Gale crater, Mars.”
This ancient lake may have existed many eons ago; for example, the lake that was in the Gale Crater probably disappeared about three billion years ago. But the signs that this ancient lake behaved like Earth lakes by having environmental conditions suitable for different types of life is an encouraging signs for scientists hoping for a breakthrough in the search for alien life.
“We’re learning that in parts of the lake and at certain times, the water carried more oxygen,” said Roger Wiens, a planetary scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and co-author of the study, published today in the journal Science. “This matters because it affects what minerals are deposited in the sediments, and also because oxygen is important for life. But we have to remember that at the time of Gale Lake, life on our planet had not yet adapted to using oxygen–photosynthesis had not yet been invented. Instead, the oxidation state of certain elements like manganese or iron may have been more important for life, if it ever existed on Mars. These oxidation states would be controlled by the dissolved oxygen content of the water.”