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Mars' Rivers and Lakes a Signal That Life Once Existed? Study Say Maybe

Image: Mars' Rivers and Lakes a Signal That Life Once Existed? Study Say Maybe
In this handout provided by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, dark, narrow streaks on the slopes of Hale Crater are inferred to be formed by seasonal flow of water on surface of present-day Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona via Getty Images)
 

By    |   Friday, 09 Oct 2015 09:21 AM

Mars once had rivers and large lakes that stood for thousands of years during its early existence, perhaps long enough to have supported life, according to a study published in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

The Mars rover Curiosity has studied dozens of outcrops near the base of Mount Sharp and the Gale impact crater, leading researchers to believe that it could have stored "water as lakes for substantial periods of time," according to Science.

"Our observations suggest that individual lakes were stable on the ancient surface of Mars for 100 to 10,000 years, a minimum duration when each lake was stable both thermally (as liquid water) and in terms of mass balance (with inputs effectively matching evaporation and loss of water to colder regions)," stated the conclusion of the study.

"We estimate that the stratigraphy traversed thus far by Curiosity would have required 10,000 to 10,000,000 years to accumulate, and even longer if overlying strata are included. Though individual lakes may have come and gone, they were probably linked in time through a common groundwater table," the statement continued.

The conclusion that Mars once had standing water has increased researchers' belief that the planet could have hosted life at one point, according to Newsweek.

"On Earth, wherever we have water, we've got life," said Marjorie Chan, a sedimentologist at the University of Utah. "These things are so intertwined that we really can't help but wonder if we're going to find evidence of life on Mars. Because there is so much evidence of different kinds of water, and it being there for so long."

Scientist John Grotzinger, one of the authors of the study, said evidence collected by Curiosity cuts against past theories that the planet is too cold to have ever sustained lakes.

"During the traverse of Gale, we have noticed patterns in the geology where we saw evidence of ancient fast-moving streams with coarser gravel as well as places where streams appear to have emptied out into bodies of standing water," another author Ashwin Vasavada said, The Washington Post noted.

Alan Howard, of the University of Virginia, said that, while the Science study suggests that the red planet was warmer and wetter than it is now, it still does not prove that life actually existed on it.

"We are very unsure of how easy or hard it is for life to develop, even if all the correct elements, compounds and environment are present," Howard told Newsweek.

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Mars once had rivers and large lakes that stood for thousands of years during its early existence, perhaps long enough to have supported life, according to a study published in Friday's edition of the journal Science.
mars, rivers, lakes, water, planet, life
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2015-21-09
Friday, 09 Oct 2015 09:21 AM
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