Near the end of September, Curiosity, the Mars Rover snapped some pictures of some Rocks. This sounds boring right? After all, Mars is nothing more than a pile of rocks. However, Scientists say this area looks like the bed of an ancient stream, and this was one of the locations where water used to flow on the red planet.
The rocks that look expose look sort of similar to concrete on a sidewalk, only broken. They are made from rounded bits of gravel spread over the sand. The rock has eroded ever so slightly, and the smoother rocks have fallen down into a small pile.
Scientists have taken a little look at this rock formation and came to just one conclusion, which to them appears to be the most logical. “This is a rock that was formed in the presence of water”. This statement came from John Grotzinger, a scientist for the mission at the California Institute of Technology. He doesn’t believe it is just any water though, instead, it is a flowing stream.
This isn’t a new idea for scientists, in fact, they have always believed that Mars once had liquid water on its surface. This is from the spacecraft which orbit it highlighting the many canyons on the surface, all of which were believed to be carved by water. The landing point of Curiosity was chosen for this reason, they believe this was an area where one of these Canyon streams had spilled some water over onto a plain, and if this evidence is anything to go by, they were right.
Peter Doran, working at the University of Illinois, Chicago stated that in the past scientists could not tell whether water or wind moved a certain rock, and this seems to be the first evidence that gives a clear sign that water existed. This is going to open up the minds of scientists so much more, for example, they will be able to get an idea of the size of the flow. Scientists are stating that the rocks that have been found are far too large to have been shaped by the wind, and the only way in which they would have eroded is by having water bashed p against them.
Jim Bell, working for Arizona State University say that these pebbles look exactly like a stream near a canyon somewhere. These stones indicate that there was water flowing across the surface, and that it was fairly deep. Imagine knee-deep water, similar to what you would have when the desert floods in the Southwest of America.
This isn’t the first Mars Rover to find evidence of water by any means. The past evidence however indicated water which bubbled up to the surface every so often, but it was by no means a flowing stream.
Water is important for life to exist, and Curiosity can now get on with its main mission, to prove that the planet was capable of supporting life. This mission is set to last two years.