According to new findings from NASA researchers suggest life on Mars was possible a billon years later than we thought.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Context Camera and High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera have captured images of what were once massive rivers and lakes fed by snow meltwater from surrounding valleys.
‘We discovered valleys that carried water into lake basins,’ said Sharon Wilson from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.’Several lake basins filled and overflowed, indicating there was a considerable amount of water on the landscape during this time,’ states Sharon Wilson of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
Space agency claims these features formed far more recently than previously-known wet period in the distant past of Mars, some 1 billion years later.
These features formed far more recently than the previously-known era of wet conditions in the distant history of the Red Planet, some 1 billion years later, according to the space agency.This is long after it is generally thought most of Mars’ original atmosphere had been lost and most of the remaining water on the planet had frozen.
‘This particular Martian lake was fed by an inlet valley on its southern edge and overflowed along its northern margin, carrying water downstream into a very large, water-filled basin we nicknamed “Heart Lake”.’
According to studies the valleys indicate it was a cold planet, with the lakes and streams fed by melting snow.
‘The rate at which water flowed through these valleys is consistent with runoff from melting snow,’ Wilson said.
‘These weren’t rushing rivers. They have simple drainage patterns and did not form deep or complex systems like the ancient valley networks from early Mars.’
The findings will likely prompt more studies to understand how conditions warmed enough on the frozen planet to allow an interval with flowing water. One possibility could be an extreme change in the planet’s tilt, with more direct illumination of polar ice.