Data from China’s Zhurong rover points to the possibility that Mars could have been a watery world 400,000 years ago, as the rover finds signs of water activity.
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Scientists have for the first time found cracked layers on tiny Martian dunes, which imply the Red Planet was a salt-rich watery world as recently as 400,000 years ago.
The researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing studied data from China’s Zhurong rover. The rover has been exploring Mars’ northern hemisphere since May 2021. It has rolled close to four nearby crescent-shaped dunes in the Utopia Planitia region to investigate their surface composition.
All four of the miniature, wind-formed geological features are coated with thin, ubiquitously fractured crusts and ridges that formed thanks to melting small pockets of “modern water” sometime between 1.4 million years and 400,000 years ago.
Scientists have long thought that early Mars harboured abundant liquid water about three billion years ago. However, climate changes froze much of it as ice now locked in poles and left the bulk of the planet parched.
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Researchers say water vapour travelled from Martian poles to lower latitudes like Zhurong’s spot a few million years ago, when the planet’s polar ice-caps released high amounts of water vapour, thanks to a different tilt that had Mars’ poles pointed more directly towards the sun. Frigid temperatures on the wobbling planet condensed the drifting vapour and dropped it as snow far from the poles, according to the latest study published in the journal ScienceAdvances.
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Well done China. I have a feeling that in the same way we have cave systems below the oceanic surface that would still maintain a water presence if the oceans ceased to exist, there is water below the surface of Mars and with that, many lifeforms both vertebrate and invertabrate. Interesting findings, who knows what will be uncovered if Mars has a massive dust storm that reveals striations millenias old. once again, well done.