Gale Crater may have been a lake

Curiosity rover landing site on Mars, Gale Crater, may held a huge lake for millions of years.

Observations by NASA’s Curiosity Rover indicate Mars’ Mount Sharp was built by sediments deposited in a large lake bed over tens of millions of years.



The above illustration depicts a lake of water partially filling Mars’ Gale Crater, receiving runoff from snow melting on the crater’s northern rim.  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS

This interpretation of Curiosity’s finds in Gale Crater suggests ancient Mars maintained a climate that could have produced long-lasting lakes at many locations on the Red Planet.

Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program during a press briefing on Monday, said:

“Gale Crater had a large lake at the bottom, perhaps even a series of lakes, that may have been big enough to last millions of years.”

Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity deputy project scientist, said:



“If our hypothesis for Mount Sharp holds up, it challenges the notion that warm and wet conditions were transient, local, or only underground on Mars. A more radical explanation is that Mars’ ancient, thicker atmosphere raised temperatures above freezing globally, but so far we don’t know how the atmosphere did that.”

Gale Crater may have been a lake 2

This evenly layered rock photographed by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover on Aug. 7, 2014, shows a pattern typical of a lake-floor sedimentary deposit not far from where flowing water entered a lake. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Curiosity currently is investigating the lowest sedimentary layers of Mount Sharp, a section of rock 500 feet (150 meters) high dubbed the Murray formation. Rivers carried sand and silt to the lake, depositing the sediments at the mouth of the river to form deltas similar to those found at river mouths on Earth. This cycle occurred over and over again.

Gale Crater may have been a lake 3

This image shows inclined beds characteristic of delta deposits where a stream entered a lake, but at a higher elevation and farther south than other delta deposits north of Mount Sharp. This suggests multiple episodes of delta growth building southward. It is from Curiosity’s Mastcam. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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