NASA’s Curiosity rover has recently discovered rippled rock textures that suggest lakes existed in a region of ancient Mars that scientists had expected to be drier.
Rock layers in the “sulfate bearing unit” were formed in dryer settings than other regions. The area’s sulfates may have been left behind after water dried to a trickle.
However, when the rover arrived there last fall, the team was surprised to find the “clearest evidence yet of ancient water ripples that formed within lakes.”
“This is the best evidence of water and waves that we’ve seen in the entire mission,” Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. “We climbed through thousands of feet of lake deposits and never saw evidence like this – and now we found it in a place we expected to be dry.”
Billions of years ago, NASA said, waves on the surface of a shallow lake stirred up sediment at the bottom, creating the rippled rock textures.
Climbing nearly half a mile above the base of Mount Sharp, the rover found the textures preserved in the “Marker Band,” which is a thin layer of dark rock that stands out from the rest of the mountain. Curiosity was unable to extract a sample of the rock layer from it. Scientists will continue their search for soft rock over the next few weeks.
Unusual rock textures in the Marker band are another clue. This could be due to a regular climate or weather cycle.
NASA also stated that they can find another clue about the past of Mars’ water, in Gediz Vallis. Scientists believe that there were wet landslides that resulted in debris. A channel that runs through the valley, which starts at Mount Sharp, is believed to have been washed away by a small stream. The rover team is hoping to get another opportunity to examine the Gediz Vallis Ridge’s debris.
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