Curiosity showed that Mars experienced a megaflood which leads us to believe life might've existed on the planet

After analysing data collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover, scientists have found that a huge flood once washed over the Gale crater on Mars, around four billion years ago. This hints towards the scope of life existing on the Red Planet.

The joint project was conducted by scientists from Jackson State University, Cornell University, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Hawaii. The results have been published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports earlier this month.

This composite, false-color image of Mount Sharp inside Gale crater on Mars shows geologists a changing planetary environment. On Mars, the sky is not blue, but the image was made to resemble Earth so that scientists could distinguish stratification layers. Image credit: NASA/JPL

The findings show that the megaflood might have resulted from the meltdown of icy reservoirs on the planet due to the heat of a meteoritic impact. This impact was so huge that the “gigantic ripples” have left geological footprints on the Martian surface. Like it happens on Earth, these geographical structures have remained intact after billions of years. The co-author of the study, Alberto G Fairén said in a statement that they managed to identify “megafloods for the first time using detailed sedimentological data observed by the rover Curiosity”.

According to lead author Ezat Heydari, the mega ripples were about 9.1 meter high (30-feet high) and spaced about 137.1 meters (450 feet) apart, and their shapes are identical to the features formed by melting ice on Earth about two million years ago.

As the megaflood happened in the early life of Mars, following the release of carbon dioxide and methane from the planet’s frozen reservoirs, conditions must have been “warm and wet” on our neighbouring world for a short time thereafter. Condensation must have led to the formation of water vapour clouds, creating torrential rain possibly on a planet-wide scale. Then this water entered the Gale Crater and combined with the water already coming down from Mount Sharp resulting in massive flash floods.

As Curiosity has already proven that lakes and streams were once a reality on Mars, it did have all the conditions needed to support the presence of liquid water on the surface, which in turn indicated the presence of life.



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