Lake on Mars - level 3

Lake on Mars - level 3

19-12-2013 06:00

It’s perhaps the best evidence yet that Mars was once able to support life. Scientists have found signs of an ancient freshwater lake on the Red Planet well-suited to microbial life.

The lake was located inside Gale Crater, where a NASA Mars rover landed in August last year. Researchers say it likely covered an area 31 miles long and 3 miles wide, though its size varied over time. Analysis of sedimentary deposits gathered by Curiosity Rover shows the lake existed for at least tens of thousands of years, possibly longer. Clays drilled out from two rock samples in the area known as Yellowknife Bay also show the lake existed at a time when other part of Mars were dried up or dotted with acidic pools ill-suited for life.

In contrast, the lake in Gale Crater could have supported a simple class of rock-eating microbes, which on Earth are commonly found in caves and hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.

Curiosity is currently en route to a three-mile-high mound of layered rock rising from the floor of Gale Crater, a formation known as Mount Sharp. Based on the new information gleaned from the Yellowknife Bay samples, scientists are developing a new strategy to look for organics there. They believe that even if life never started on Mars, organic material presumably would have been deposited on the surface by crashing comets and asteroids.

Difficult words: sedimentary (rocks, earth and other materials), deposit (layer), clay (earth), dotted (there were a lot of them but they were spread far apart), acidic (containing acid), ill-suited (unsuitable), vent (hole), mound (hill), glean (find out information), presumably (probably).

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