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History of Mars’ habitability preserved in ancient dunes

7 May 2021, 12:00 UTC
History of Mars’ habitability preserved in ancient dunes
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A butte within the Stimson formation as seen by the Curiosity rover. These rock formations contain preserved remnants of ancient dune fields. Image via NASA/ Imperial College London.
Scientists who study the possibility of life on Mars want to know how habitable the planet might have been millions or billions of years ago. Was Mars ever able to support life as we know it, at least microbial? The evidence from landers, rovers and orbiters over the past few decades has continued to indicate that Mars was indeed once more habitable than it is now. But then conditions changed; the water on the surface dried up and the atmosphere became thinner and drier. Late last month, an international team of researchers reported on a new study documenting the changing habitability of Mars. These scientists examined ancient sand dune fields preserved in rocks in Gale Crater, where the Curiosity rover has been exploring an ancient lakebed since 2012.
The new peer-reviewed research was published in AGU’s JGR: Planets on March 31, 2021.
Curiosity had already confirmed that Gale Crater used to be a lake or series of lakes a few billion years ago. Now, it has also found evidence for an ancient ...

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