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Today, we learn about a megaflood on Mars; just the latest evidence life existed there in the past. Furthermore, chances are, it could live there today.
Notably, a rover named Perseverance is about to land on Mars, seeking signs of ancient life. On the NASA website, there is a countdown to the landing date of February 18, 2021. Currently, it’s traveling at an astounding 56,932 miles per hour, relative to the Sun.
When Perseverance lands, it could finally help answer the big questions: Was Mars inhabited by life? More importantly, perhaps, is life living there right now?
Ancient Megaflood on Mars
Today, we get only more confirmation that the Red Planet was capable of supporting life. A previous rover, Curiosity, provided data that has revealed something new. For the first time, we learn that four billion years ago, there was an epic megaflood on Mars.
The orbiter revealed giant wave-shaped features in sedimentary layers at the bottom of the Gale crater. Following the discovery, these features have been dubbed “mega-ripples” and “antidunes.” Incredibly, they still stand 30 feet high and some 450 feet apart.
The data from Curiosity has shown signs the flood was of Biblical proportions.
Unsurprisingly, scientists believe that a meteoroid impacted the planet at the crater, causing ice stored on the surface to melt. Then, the resulting giant flash floods were of an “unimaginable magnitude.”
It’s the first time a megaflood on Mars has been identified from the data.
“We identified megafloods for the first time using detailed sedimentological data observed by the rover Curiosity,” said study co-author Alberto G. Fairen from Cornell University.
After the floods, the scientists believe there followed a period of global torrential rains and higher temperatures. Thus, Fairen confirms that life may have been possible on Mars.
“Early Mars was an extremely active planet from a geological point of view. The planet had the conditions needed to support the presence of liquid water on the surface — and on the Earth, where there’s water, there’s life,” Fairen said.
A Landscape Similar to Some on Earth Today
On August 6, 2012, one-ton Curiosity landed in the massive crater at the foot of a mountain called “Mount Sharp.” The mountain is taller than Mount Rainier and three times higher than the Grand Canyon is deep.
Scientists chose the sight since there abundant signs water had been present, the key ingredient for life. Last year, we shared the news that scientists discovered Gale crater was once home to briny pools and lakes, compared to present-day Altiplano Lakes in the Chilean Andes.
In September 2020, scientists from Italy, Australia, and Germany found evidence of a saltwater lake under Mars’ southern ice cap. The water is still in liquid form but so high in salt that the pools don’t’ freeze entirely. Possibly, the water could harbor extremophile life forms that can live in low-oxygen and extreme temperatures.
When the 10-foot-long Perseverance rover lands with its smaller flying drone named “Ingenuity,” it will be at the site of a much-crater called Jezero. At one time, Jezero may have been a massive river delta. Perhaps, sediment in the bottom of the cater could contain signs of microbial lifeforms.
More about the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter from Engadget:
Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube