Mars experienced massive flooding billions of years ago, scientists have discovered after analyzing 3D radar scans that show water-carved channels buried deep below the Red Planet's surface.
Researchers say the flooding could have induced climate change, as the planet was thought to have been cold and dry for the past 2.5 billion years.
"This is the first time we've been able to see buried flood channels on a planet other than the Earth," geologist Gareth Morgan, of the National Air and Space Museum's Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, told SPACE.com
. "There was more significant flooding than before thought, and it's interesting to think of where this water might have come from during this relatively dry period."
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The findings may help lead to a better understanding of Mars's hydrologic activity, Morgan said.
"The source of the floodwaters suggests they originated from a deep groundwater reservoir and may have been released by local tectonic or volcanic activity," Morgan told SPACE.com.
The research team included members from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Planetary Science Directorate in the Southwest Research Institute, and the Smithsonian Institution. The images were obtained from shallow radar aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The team's study on Mars's flooding is published in the journal Science.
The Mars rover Curiosity landed in Gale Crater near the equator last summer on a mission to determine whether the environment was favorable for microbes.
It drilled into a flat rock in February and collected a tablespoon-size sample from the interior — the first time this was achieved on Mars.
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The car-size rover still has to drive to Mount Sharp rising from the center of the crater floor. The trip is expected to take at least nine months with stops.
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