Scientists discover evidence of ancient rivers on Mars

Scientists hope the discovery of pre-existing river systems will help further research into ancient life on Mars

Tech Desk May 06, 2020
PHOTO: Utrecht University

An international team of scientists have discovered new evidence of rivers that flowed on the surface of Mars billions of years ago, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.

The ground-breaking discovery made by the scientists using high-resolution imagery from the HiRISE camera onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter can provide information about ancient life on the Red Planet.

“Unfortunately we don’t have the ability to climb, to look at the finer-scale details, but the striking similarities to sedimentary rocks on Earth leaves very little to the imagination,” lead author Francesco Salese, from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, said in a statement.

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The team transformed the images into 3D topographical maps of the Hellas Basin on Mars, one of the largest impact craters in our solar system.

Researchers uncovered sediment deposits about 200 meters (656 feet) high, roughly twice the height of the White Cliffs of Dover, and 1.5 kilometers wide.

“To form these 200-meter-thick deposits we needed conditions that would have required an environment capable of maintaining significant volumes of liquid water,” said Salese.

“We’ve never seen an outcrop with this amount of detail on it that we can definitely say is so old, “said Joel Davis, a postdoctoral researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, England, and co-author of the paper, in the statement.

“This is one more piece of the puzzle in the search for ancient life on Mars, providing novel insight into just how much water occupied these ancient landscapes,” said Davis.

“The rivers that formed these rocks weren’t just a one-off event — they were probably active for tens to hundreds of thousands of years,” said Davis in the statement.

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NASA’s Mars Orbiter is capable of taking pictures of the Martian landscape at a resolution of 25 centimeters per pixel from a distance of 400 km.

The new discovery was only possible due to the advanced technology that is still orbiting Mars hundreds of millions of miles away from Earth.

“Here on Earth, sedimentary rocks have been used by geologists for generations to place constraints on what conditions were like on our planet millions or even billions of years ago,” explained co-author William McMahon in the statement.

“Now we have the technology to extend this methodology to another terrestrial planet, Mars, which hosts an ancient sedimentary rock record that extends even further back in time than our own,” added McMahon.

The researchers are optimistic that the new findings can set roots for future research into ancient life on Mars.

This article originally published on Futurism.


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