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Mon Oct 7, 2019, 01:48 PM

Ancient Lake on Mars Turned Salty for a Spell, Curiosity Rover Finds

By Mike Wall 3 hours ago Science & Astronomy

Gale Crater's water apparently didn't stay drinkable forever.

This September 2016 self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle in the scenic
Murray Buttes area on lower Mount Sharp. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover may have just captured a snapshot of the Red Planet's long-ago Great Drying.

Curiosity has detected relatively high levels of sulfate salts in the rocks of Gale Crater, a new study reports. Gale hosted a lake-and-stream system in the ancient past, and the newfound salts were likely concentrated by evaporation during a period of low water levels, researchers said.

This period may have been part of a normal cyclical fluctuation, a regular climatic change perhaps driven by recurring shifts in Mars' axial tilt or orbital parameters. "Alternatively, a drier Gale lake might be a sign of long-term, secular global drying of Mars, posited based on orbital observations," the scientists wrote in the new study, which was published online today (Oct. 7) in the journal Nature Geoscience.

A planet transformed
Mars was once a relatively warm and wet world, complete with rivers and lakes and, most researchers believe, an ocean covering a large swath of the planet's northern hemisphere.


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