Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

NASA rover finds new details about ancient lake on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover has uncovered signs of an ancient freshwater lake on Mars.

NASA

NASA’s Curiosity rover has uncovered signs of an ancient freshwater lake on Mars.

NASA's steady reconnaissance of Mars with the Curiosity rover has produced another major discovery: evidence of an ancient lake with water so low in salinity and so neutral in acidity that it could plausibly be described as drinkable.

Scientists have known that the young Mars was warmer and wetter, but this is the best evidence yet that the planet had what people would call swimming holes. (Scientists say it would have been chilly — you'd have wanted to wear a wetsuit.)

The "fresh water" lake could have harbored life, in theory. The chemistry of the lake would have been congenial to organisms known as chemolithoautotrophs — mineral-eaters. Whether such organisms, which thrive on Earth in exotic environments such as caves and deep-sea hydrothermal vents, actually existed on the young Mars is a question Curiosity lacks the tools to answer.

The findings were published Monday online by the journal Science and will be discussed in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Scientists had announced this year that they'd found signs of an ancient lake within Gale Crater, but the new reports provide a much more detailed analysis. The lake existed 3.6 billion years ago and stuck around for thousands of years, at least, the new reports conclude.

"If we put microbes from Earth and put them in this lake on Mars, would they survive? Would they survive and thrive? And the answer is yes," said John Grotzinger, a Caltech planetary geologist who is the chief scientist of the Curiosity rover mission.

"In March, we did know that we had a lake, but what we weren't sure of was how big it was and how long it lasted, and also we were not sure about the broader geological context that supports the presence of lakes coming and going for a very long time," Grotzinger said.

NASA rover finds new details about ancient lake on Mars 12/09/13 [Last modified: Monday, December 9, 2013 9:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Treasure Island facing massive municipal makeover

    Local Government

    TREASURE ISLAND — The first hint of the extent and potential cost of replacing city facilities became public Tuesday.

  2. Democrat Philip Levine won't attack Trump. Can he be Florida governor?

    Perspective

    If he decides to run, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine will be the most enigmatic and unpredictable candidate for Florida governor in 2018.

    Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is introduced before speaking at a Tampa Tiger Bay Club meeting at the Ferguson Law Center in Tampa on May 19. (LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times)
  3. Tim Tebow Week: 12 stories from his Tampa Bay tour

    Minors

    Alas, Tim Tebow Week — eight baseball games in eight nights that reunited Tebow with his Tampa Bay friends and admirers — is over. The fun ended Thursday night.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow meets fans and signs autographs before the beginning of the Mets at Threshers game at Spectrum Field on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 in Clearwater. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times

  4. What you need to know for Friday, Aug. 18

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Read 'Hellfire from Above,' inside the Tampa Electric Co. power plant accident that left five people dead. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  5. Tampa is training ground for Team USA inline skating

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The United States once dominated the sport known as international outdoor inline speed skating.

    Cotton Yarborough is one of five people from the Tampa Bay area on the national inline speed skating team. The team is competing in the world championships Aug. 27 in China. [Courtesy of Frank Holland]