Detailed analysis of data from the Curiosity rover has convinced scientists that most of the current craters on Mars may have been rivers suitable for life in ancient times .
Mars was quite likely a planet of rivers, according to American astrogeologists in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Scientists used numerical models that simulated soil erosion on Mars over thousands of years. It turned out that the stone structures in the craters appear to be the remains of ancient river beds, reports earth.com.
“We’re finding evidence that Mars was likely a planet of rivers,” Cardenas explains, alluding to the widespread signs across the Martian surface pointing towards an aqueously abundant past.
The computer model was first used to study Martian soil and calculate its evolution. Researchers have painstakingly mapped signs of erosion to trace its history. The artificial intelligence was trained using satellite data and images delivered by Curiosity.
The second important component of the training base was the results of 3D scanning of rock layers formed over millions of years under the seabed of the Gulf of Mexico.
Computer modeling saw many similarities in the two sources of information. No one had previously linked the Red Planet’s crater structures to fluvial sediments.
Cardenas enthuses, “This suggests that there could be undiscovered river deposits elsewhere on the planet, and that an even larger section of the Martian sedimentary record could have been built by rivers during a habitable period of Mars history.”
Reflecting on the implications for life, he adds, “On Earth, river corridors are so important for life, chemical cycles, nutrient cycles, and sediment cycles. Everything is pointing to these rivers behaving similarly on Mars.”
This study does more than reconstruct the ancient Martian environment. It also ignites new hope for uncovering signs of past life on the red planet.
“Our research indicates that Mars could have had far more rivers than previously believed, which certainly paints a more optimistic view of ancient life on Mars,” asserts Cardenas.
The discovery, suggesting that most of the Martian landscape once possessed the right conditions for life, marks a monumental stride in planetary science, reshaping our understanding of our celestial neighbor.