Mars' vast saltwater lakes evaporated around 3.3billion years ago

South America Altiplano Looks Like Mars

South America Altiplano Looks Like Mars

"We've learned over the years of Curiosity's traverse across Gale Crater that Mars' climate was habitable once, long ago", said Roger Wiens, the principal investigator of the ChemCam instrument at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a co-author of the paper. Curiosity has analyzed other, older rocks on Mars and didn't detect these salts in them.

Researchers are using observations from Curiosity to paint a picture of Mars as a watery world, and there's no shortage of evidence to support it.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., October 7, 2019-The surface of Mars was once home to shallow, salty ponds that went through episodes of overflow and drying, according to a paper published today in Nature Geoscience.

Thus, the researchers infer that the measurements are evidence of an interval of high salinity of the crater's lake that may have occurred as water evaporated. Sediment carried by water and wind filled in the crater floor, layer by layer. Now exposed on the mountain's slopes, each layer reveals a different era of Martian history and holds clues about the prevailing environment at the time.

"We know from orbital observations during that timing Mars was changing radically, over geological times, although it still had liquid water, lakes, rivers, and also important volcanic activity it was losing its atmosphere to space", said lead author William Rapin, from the California Institute of Technology.

"Understanding when and how the planet's climate started evolving is a piece of another puzzle".

Given that Earth and Mars were similar in their early days, Rapin speculated that Sutton Island might have resembled saline lakes on South America's Altiplano.

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In 2012 NASA's Curiosity rover went to Mars to explore Gale Crater.

The study also found sulfates located in the shallow sections at the fringes of the Gale Crater, meaning there may have been "segmentation of the Gale lake into discrete ponds, including those where extremely evapo-concentrated brines might form". After the sediment hardened, wind carved the layered rock into the towering Mount Sharp, which Curiosity is climbing today.

What Mars may have looked like.

Mars is now in the middle of an ice age, and before this study, scientists believed liquid water could not exist on its surface. "There were very wet periods and very dry periods-as these sulfate-rich rocks show us".

Up until now, the rover has encountered lots of flat sediment layers that had been gently deposited at the bottom of a lake.

"Finding inclined layers represents a major change, where the landscape isn't completely underwater anymore", said Chris Fedo, University of Tennessee researcher of sedimentary layers.

We're certainly not to a point where we can say that life definitely existed on Mars, but we're getting closer.

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