New satellite images of Mars may challenge the theory that the planet was too cold to sustain water on the surface, suggesting instead the existence of 20km-wide lakes along the planet's equator. But what does this mean for Martian history?
A research team led by Dr Nicholas Warner from Imperial College London (University College London also participated) analyzed images sent back from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and believe that they've found evidence of lakes from a period previously believed to be full of subzero nothingness, as Warner explains:
Most of the research on Mars has focussed on its early history and the recent past. Scientists had largely overlooked the Hesperian Epoch as it was thought that Mars was then a frozen wasteland. Excitingly, our study now shows that this middle period in Mars' history was much more dynamic than we previously thought.
The team reached its conclusions by comparing images of depressions on the surface of Mars with landscapes from Alaska and Siberia, leading them to believe that - despite previous theories to the contrary - the Mars of three billion years ago must have included running water on its surface. If true, then this could offer new areas of exploration for those looking for evidence of life on Mars, as the lake beds would have been potential habitats for microbial lifeforms. Alternatively, it might be evidence that we should start preparing Adelaide Brooke for a space mission forty-nine years from now.
Spectacular Mars images reveal evidence of ancient lakes [Space Fellowship]