New evidence of ancient lakes and rivers on Mars

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New evidence of ancient lakes and rivers on Mars

Post by falkor » Wed Jan 06, 2010 4:41 pm

By Kate Devlin and Louise Gray
Published: 7:30AM GMT 05 Jan 2010

An analysis of satellite images revealed craters left along Mars' equator by lakes similar to those found in Alaska and Siberia.

Importantly, the lakes were linked by small tributaries and rivers, suggesting water was moving which means they would have been able to support microbial life, scientists including a team from Imperial College London found.
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The lakes, up to 12 miles long, have been dated back three billion years and were probably created following volcanic activity in the region around the equator, which was previously thought to be dry and arid.

Previously scientists believed that the lakes on Mars during that period were merely ice so the findings widen the period of time in which now extinct life forms could have existed on Mars, researchers believe.

The results come just months after Nasa, the American space agency, announced that they had found water on the surface of the planet, raising more hopes that signs of life could some day be discovered.

Previous research has shown that Mars was home to lakes and rivers earlier in its history, around four billion years ago.

But scientists now believe that during the Hesperian Epoch, around three billion years ago, they could also have been created by sporadic wet and warm periods, according to the research published in the journal Geology.

Researcher Dr Sanjeev Gupta, from Imperial College, said: "Potentially life could have survived in these lakes, we would be talking about microbial life.

"But these are a potential place to go and look for that life. Previously it was thought that it would have been difficult to sustain life during the period, because it was too cold and dry and there was no standing water, such as ponds, which is what you need for life.

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