‘Never Saw Evidence Like This’: NASA Rover Finds Clear Indications Of Ancient Lake On Mars

(Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via Getty Images)

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The Curiosity rover has found clear indicators there was once an ancient lake on Mars, NASA scientists announced Wednesday.

Last fall, NASA scientists believed that they had seen the final and best piece of evidence that water once existed on the Red Planet when the rover reached an area known as the “sulfate-bearing unit” – a region on the planet rich in salty minerals, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement. At the time, scientists believed the rocks formed in the region as the planet was drying out. Now, however, the rover has given scientists the “clearest evidence yet” that the area was once dominated by an ancient lake.

“This is the best evidence of water and waves that we’ve seen in the entire mission,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory stated according to CNN.  “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.”

Curiosity’s team stumbled upon the clearest evidence yet of that a shallow lake existed in the area, its waves stirring up sediment at the lake bottom to create rippled textures in the rocks now being observed by NASA’s scientists, a release from the agency stated.

The sulfate-bearing unit, located in the foothills of the 3-mile-high Martian mountain known as Mount Sharp, has been a focal point for scientists who believe that the location contains clues as to how and why Mars became the frozen planet it is today, the outlet reported.

“Mount Sharp is made up of layers, with the oldest at the bottom of the mountain and the youngest at the top. As the rover ascends, it progresses along a Martian timeline, allowing scientists to study how Mars evolved from a planet that was more Earth-like in its ancient past, with a warmer climate and plentiful water, to the freezing desert it is today,” the statement from NASA read.

The rippled rocks were found about one-half mile up Mount Sharp in an area scientists call the Marker Band – so called because it presents as a thin layer of dark rock that stands in sharp contrast to the rest of Mount Sharp, CNN reported. Within the Marker Band are unusual rock textures that scientists believe point to a recurring element in the weather cycle, such as dust storms, NASA indicated. (RELATED: Mars Reveals More Earth-Like Qualities In Amazing New Discovery)

“The wave ripples, debris flows, and rhythmic layers all tell us that the story of wet-to-dry on Mars wasn’t simple,” Vasavada said in the NASA release. “Mars’ ancient climate had a wonderful complexity to it, much like Earth’s.”

Curiosity has been roaming Mars since 2014.