Lakes and streams on Mars formed much later than previously thought

Lakes and streams on Mars formed much later than previously thought

Upon the basis of data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and other spacecraft, scientists have come to know that lakes and streams on Mars have formed much lately than what was previously believed.

As per scientists, lakes and snow-melt fed streams have formed around a billion years after an earlier, documented period of wet conditions on Mars. During that period, as per the researchers, conditions on the Martian surface might have been habitable for microbial life.

Sharon Wilson of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, was of the view that they have discovered valleys that used to carry water into lake basins. “Several lake basins filled and overflowed, indicating there was a considerable amount of water on the landscape during this time”, mentioned Wilson.

Study’s lead researcher Wilson and colleagues came to know about the features in Arabia Terra region by assessing the images by MRO’s Context Camera and High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera (HiRISE) and data from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and the European Space Agency’s Mars Express.

In the report from the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, the researchers have mapped the level of stream-flow in the former lakes and shallow valleys. As per the researchers, the runoff that resulted into the valleys was seasonal.

In order to find out the time period when fresh shallow valleys in Arabia Terra were formed, researchers started to estimate the age for 22 impact craters in the region. After the assessment, the researchers came to know that the wet period on Mars happened between two to three billion years back.

It is expected that the findings of the study will result into more research to have a better understanding on how the environment warmed to let a period with flowing water.

According to a report in CS Monitor by Ben Rosen, "The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to move forward this week with a bipartisan bill that, for the first time, calls on NASA to ultimately establish a human colony on the Red Planet. To aid the space agency, the bill aims to prevent any future president from interfering with a $19.5-billion authorization package or development programs for rockets and spacecraft destined for Mars."

The sponsors of the proposed legislation are US Sens. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas, Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) of Florida, Gary Peters (D) of Michigan, Roger Wicker (R) of Mississippi, and Tom Udall (D) of New Mexico. All of the senators are from states that either have NASA centers and facilities or border states that do.

"America has a long history of leading the way in space exploration and we must reclaim that leadership," Mr. Cruz, the chair of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, said Friday, in a statement about the bill. "This NASA reauthorization bill brings us one step closer to reasserting American leadership in space by ensuring NASA has the certainty it needs to continue to grow and improve upon what it does best: lead the world in space exploration."

A report published in Space Flight Insider informed, "A new study using data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and other spacecraft indicate that lakes and streams on Mars formed much later in the planet's history than previously thought possible. The newly discovered lakes and snow-melt fed streams occurred roughly a billion years after an earlier, well-documented period of wet conditions on Mars."

"We discovered valleys that carried water into lake basins," said Sharon Wilson of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. "Several lake basins filled and overflowed, indicating there was a considerable amount of water on the landscape during this time."

"The rate at which water flowed through these valleys is consistent with runoff from melting snow," Wilson said, "These weren't rushing rivers. They have simple drainage patterns and did not form deep or complex systems like the ancient valley networks from early Mars."


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