Nasa's Curiosity rover discovers Mars once supported 96-mile-wide lake

Nasa scientists announced that the lake may have existed roughly 3.5bn years ago

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The Independent Online

Evidence supporting the idea that Mars could have once sustained life has been bolstered after it was discovered that a 96-mile-wide crater had once been filled with a giant body of water.

Scientists from Nasa confirmed on Monday that water-deposited sediments were found in the crater and these proved that a large lake once existed in the Gale Crater roughly 3.5 billion years ago.

As evidence for the lake, scientists discovered stacks of rocks containing the water-deposited sediments inclined towards the crater’s centre, which now shows a three mile mound scientists have named Mount Sharp. According to scientists, the discovery of these inclined sediments proves that at one point in time water did fill the crater.

The new discovery marks nearly two years of data collected by Nasa’s Mars Rover Curiosity since it was sky-crane landed on the planet’s surface in August 2012. When arriving on the planet in 2012, it had the main aim of establishing whether Mars had the environmental conditions to have once supported life.

Last year, evidence was found that a freshwater lake named Yellowknife Bay had existed on the planet and could have potentially supported microbial life forms for millions of years.

The latest discovery in the Gale Crater adds to the growing evidence that water existed on the planet and could support and sustain living organisms.

Michael Meyer, one of Nasa’s Mars exploration programme scientists, said that the evidence for Mars supporting life was growing.

He told Reuters:  “The size of the lake in Gale Crater and the length of time and series that water was showing up imply that there may have been sufficient time for life to get going and thrive.”

The full report is yet to be published, but it is believed that the findings will put forward the argument that Mars experienced a series of wet and dry periods, rather than one early dry period that was short lived.

Additional Reporting Reuters