While well-heeled earthlings pack for their first voyage to Mars, scientists reveal new details about the ancient climate of the red planet.
Early last year, analysts announced the discovery of potential dry eruptions in the Gale crater lakes 3.5 billion years ago
"We now believe these are mud cracks," said lead author Nathaniel Stein, a geologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, in a statement.
These decorative structures form wet, muddy sediment that dries out and contracts; naturally occurring mud cracks are the result of residues that were once saturated with water.
In this case, their position near the center of the basin rather than the edge indicates that the water level has "increased dramatically" over time. [Geol.]
"The mud cracks show that the lakes in Gale Crater have gone through the same kind of cycles that we see on Earth, "Stein said in a recent study in the journal Geology .
When they attacked the NASA Rover Curiosity, the researchers focused on a coffee table-sized stone slab called the "Old Soaker," which is covered with polygons like the earth's desiccation elements.
A closer physical and chemical view of the shapes – limited to a single layer of rock where sediments fill their cracks – proved what scientists have long believed that the numbers are the result of exposure to air (not thermal or hydraulic fracturing).
It is no secret that the Gale crater once contained lakes. But when and how liquid water existed on the planet remains a mystery.
NASA made a breakthrough in 2015 proving that water can still exist on the Martian surface. However, the longer and harder they looked, the fewer H2O scientists believe there is new knowledge about the same volume as the Earth's Atacama desert or the Antarctic dry valleys.
However, analysts were overwhelmed by new climate data released in February suggesting that the planet's atmosphere may not have been warm enough to melt ice to water.
The universe is finally a mystery. One that helps the Curiosity Rover to unravel one column at a time.
"The mud cracks are exciting because they expand our understanding of this ancient sea system," said Stein. "We catch a moment in time, this research is just a chapter in a story Curiosity has built since the beginning of his mission."
Earlier this year, data from two orbiting spacecraft revealed ice cliffs at least 100 meters thick practically as a source of water for future human exploration.
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