Since August of 2012, NASA has been studying a crater on Mars, called the Gale Crater. The crater is about 196 miles wide and is now thought to have been a large body of water. What makes this finding significant is that it could have supported life for millions of years. It is likely the lake was formed from runoff on the crater’s edge. As materials were deposited from the lake, a mountain was created that sits about 3.4 miles high. Because of the size of the proposed lake, life could have flourished for millions of years thanks to the body of water.
A press conference was held on December 8th detailing the new findings and theories about the crater. Mount Sharpe has been a longstanding mystery for some time. Due to the findings of beds of sandstone sloping toward the Mount, this proves that a lake could have easily been in this area. In comparison, here on Earth you would find these same inclined beds where the rivers would dump into the lakes. On Mars, the deltas are seen in multiple elevation levels suggesting they were created at different points in time.
Another great finding suggesting there was a large body of water was rocks found with rhythmic banding. This too is found on Earth when the rocks are hit softly with various sediments. Also in the rocks were crystals that were likely found after the water had evaporated. While it is unclear how deep the lake was, it makes sense based on the location of Mount Sharp that it was created by runoff sediment.
These new pictures by the rover give researchers interesting clues into what could have happened on Mars over the last million years. Over time, we should gain even more clues as to what took place on this planet.