NASA’s Curiosity rover may have stumbled upon a spot on Mars where a massive lake used to be. According to NASA, Curiosity turned up evidence that suggests a 96-mile wide stretch, known as the Gale Crater, may have once been an alien watering hole, a vacation spot on an otherwise parched planet. If true, it bolsters the notion that the Red Planet was once suitable for microbial life.
NASA says Curiosity collected the data over a two-year period—since August 2012—constantly combing the area for evidence. What it discovered were rocks that contained water-deposited sediments inclined toward the crater’s center, which is where Mount Sharp rests. Scientists believe Mount Sharp, which is three-miles tall, actually didn’t exist when the lake was there. That means in the last 3.5 billion years, the water dried, and up sprang Mount Sharp.
“Sedimentary geology… is the cutting edge for trying to understand the Earth,” explained John Grotzinger, who is the lead scientist at the California Institute of Technology. “When oil companies collect seismic surveys across places, they are looking for inclined strata because… then you get geometry that tells you where the rocks are that you’re looking for.
Curiosity has found plenty of evidence before that Mars once had conditions conducive to support life. Now it’s just a matter of finding out whether or not those conditions lasted long enough for life to thrive. Mars may have once been covered in water, but for how long? That’s what Curiosity is trying to figure out. The inclined strata is a big clue. Couple that with the size of the lake in Gale Crater, and scientists do believe life definitely had sufficient time to thrive.
If anything, it makes Mars that much more mysterious. Curiosity is in pursuit, however, of the answers—and it won’t be much longer until we witness those mysteries in the flesh.