Analyzing data collected by NASA’s curiosity rover, scientists have found that unimaginable floods once washed through the Gale Crater at the Mars equator about four billion years ago.
The finding, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests the possibility that life may have existed on the red planet.
The raging mega-river – probably touched by the heat of a meteorite impact that released ice stored on the surface of Mars – created giant ripples that are narrative geological structures known to scientists on Earth.
“We first identified the mega-river using detailed sedimentological data observed by the rover Curiosity,”
“Deposits left by megaflood had not previously been identified with orbiter data.”
As is the case on Earth, geological features, including work with water and wind, have been frozen in time on Mars for about four billion years. These functions mediate processes that have previously shaped the surface of both planets.
This case includes the occurrence of giant undulating features in sedimentary layers of Gale craters, often called “megaripples” or antidunes that are about 30 meters high and about 450 meters apart, according to lead author Ezat Heydari, professor of physics at Jackson State University in Mississippi, USA.
Antidunes are signs of floating mega-rivers at the bottom of Mars’ Gale Crater about four billion years ago that are identical to the features formed by melting ice on Earth about two million years ago, Heydari said.
The most likely cause of the flooding of Mars was melting of ice from the heat generated by a large impact that released carbon dioxide and methane from the planet’s frozen reservoirs.
The water vapor and release of gases combined to produce a short period of heat and wet conditions on the red planet.
Condensation formed water vapor clouds, which in turn created heavy rain, possibly worldwide.
The Curiosity Rover science team has already determined that Gale Crater once had persistent lakes and streams in the ancient past.
These long-lasting bodies of water are good indicators that the crater as well as Mount Sharp in it were able to support microbial life.
“Early Mars was an extremely active planet from a geological point of view,” Fairen said.
“The planet had the necessary conditions to support the presence of liquid water on the surface – and on Earth, where there is water, there is life.
“So early, Mars was a habitable planet,” he said.
“Was it inhabited? It’s a question that the next rover Endurance … will help answer.”
Endurance, launched on July 30, is scheduled to reach Mars on February 18, 2021.