One year ago, the Curiosity rover found some odd formations on the surface of Mars that resembled some mud cracks. The photos that attracted the attention of researchers were of a rock called Old Soaker. After closely analyzing the patterns on this rock, they finally confirmed they were a sign of an ancient Martian lake that dried up billions of years ago.
Were these cracks signs of desiccation?
In January 2017, Curiosity studied the Gale Crater. The soil at its bottom looked like dried mud, and the patterns on the Old Soaker resembled common desiccation patterns. However, researchers thought this wasn’t enough to confirm water was present on Mars. Therefore, they decided to investigate.
After a year of studies, scientists from Caltech Institute of Technology confirmed the hypothesis we have been waiting for. Those cracks were really a desiccation pattern, and proved the existence of an ancient Martian lake that was present on the planet 3.5 billion years ago.
Curiosity helped the researchers find out as much as possible about the interesting formations. Apart from the look of the cracks, they also got some information on the chemical composition of the Old Soaker. They made use of mostly all of Curiosity’s cameras, and could deliver a detailed analysis of the small rock.
The pattern proved the existence of an ancient Martian lake
Therefore, the complex pattern of cracks was the result of the sediments on the bottom of the ancient Martian lake. Then, the desiccation signs appeared as these sediments came into contact with air. This was interesting, as it disproved other claims of exposure to water or heat.
Given the place of the Old Soaker and the position of the cracks, researchers found more interesting information about the ancient Martian lake. It turns out this water formation reached different levels over time. Therefore, the most exciting discovery places Mars much closer to Earth. This ancient lake must have been through the same cycles as lakes on our planet.
The study on the ancient Martian lake has been published in the journal Geology.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons