- A new study concludes that Martian craters are remnants of ancient riverbeds
- Scientists believe that these river systems provided the right living conditions
- READ MORE: NASA’s Curiosity Rover Discovers Strange Bone-Like Stone on Mars
Mars is a desolate wasteland, but scientists have discovered remnants of ancient river systems that once provided the right conditions for life to exist.
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University reanalyzed data collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover at Gale Crater and found that the formations were far more common habitable bodies of water than previously thought.
The team identified flat banks and short, blunt ridges in the landscapes that they call “noses” that could be evidence of ancient river deposits in craters.
These waters are also thought to behave like they do on Earth – “important for life, chemical cycles, nutrient cycles and sediment cycles,” researchers said.
The team identified flat banks and short, blunt ridges in the landscapes that they call “noses” that could be evidence of ancient river deposits in craters
Benjamin Cardenas, assistant professor of earth sciences at Penn State University and lead author, said: “We find evidence that Mars was likely a planet full of rivers.”
“We see signs of this all over the planet.”
The study was conducted by mapping the erosion of ancient Martian soil using a computer model trained on satellite data.
The data comes from NASA’s Curiosity and 3D scans of rock layers, called strata, that were deposited over millions of years beneath the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico.
In designing their computer model, Cardenas and his team found a new use for 25-year-old scans of Earth’s stratigraphy collected by oil companies.
The team reanalyzed data from NASA’s Curiosity at Gale Crater in Mars’ southern hemisphere, near the Martian equator
The researchers said the analysis provided a new interpretation for common crater formations on Mars that have never before been associated with eroded river deposits
Cardenas said the scan “provides an ideal comparison to Mars.”
The team simulated Mars-like erosion using 3D scans of actual, recorded stratigraphy on Earth.
When they ran the simulation, the model revealed erosive Martian landscapes that formed topographic banks and noses instead of river ridges and appeared almost identical to the landforms observed by the Curiosity rover in Gale Crater.
The researchers said the analysis provided a new interpretation for common crater formations on Mars that have never before been associated with eroded river deposits.
“We can learn everything about Mars by better understanding how these fluvial deposits can be interpreted stratigraphically, by imagining present-day rocks as layers of sediment that were deposited over time,” Cardenas said.
“This analysis is not a snapshot in time, but a record of change.” “What we see on Mars today are the remnants of an active geological history, rather than a landscape frozen in time.”
Previous studies mapping Mars concluded that river ridges are probably the opposite of a riverbed.
The ridges are only present in the southern hemisphere, where Gale Crater is located – although it is closer to the Martian equator.
However, the new study suggests that the bank-and-nose landforms could also be ancient river deposits.
“This suggests that there may be undiscovered fluvial deposits elsewhere on the planet and that an even larger portion of Mars’ sediment record may have been formed by rivers during a habitable period of Martian history,” Cardenas said.
“On Earth, river corridors are so important for life, chemical cycles, nutrient cycles and sediment cycles.
“Everything suggests that these rivers behave similarly on Mars.”