Giant Crater on Mars Was Once a Vast Lake, Curiosity Rover Shows
by Mike Wall, Space.com Senior Writer | December 08, 2014 03:31pm ET
| This artist's illustration shows a lake of water partially filling Gale Crater on Mars. Image released Dec. 8, 2014.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS
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A giant crater on Mars may have been able to support microbial life for millions of years in the ancient past because it was once a huge lake of water, new results from NASA's Curiosity rover suggest. Curiosity found evidence for the crater lake on Mars in the 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) Gale Crater, which the rover has been exploring since its August 2012 touchdown. Today, Gale Crater is a dry, stark landscape, but in the ancient past, runoff from the crater rim created a lake in which deposited sediments gradually built up Mount Sharp, a mountain that rises about 3.4 miles (5.5 km) high from the crater's center, mission scientists added. "This lake was large enough it could have lasted millions of years — sufficient time for life to get started and thrive, sufficient time for lake sediments to build up and form Mount Sharp," Michael Meyer, Mars Exploration Program lead scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said during a press conference today (Dec. 8). [Ancient Mars Could Have SupportedLife: Photos]
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