Mars Rover Finds Signs of a Robust Ancient River

A new discovery could lead to clues about planet's ability to support life
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2023 10:15 AM CDT
Mars Rover Finds Signs of a Robust Ancient River
A NASA image of what appears to have been a river on the planet.   (NASA)

Images captured by NASA's Perseverance rover suggest the existence of a once-thriving and surprisingly potent Martian river—shedding light on the planet's intriguing geological past. A NASA press release reports that the rover's high-resolution photographs, made during its ongoing mission on Mars, provide compelling evidence of an ancient riverbed with intricate channels and sediment deposits. Postdoctoral researcher Libby Ives with the Jet Propulsion Lab says the photographic evidence indicates "a high-energy river" of the past that was "truckin’ and carrying a lot of debris," per Mashable. "The more powerful the flow of water, the more easily it’s able to move larger pieces of material."

In the press release, Caltech river specialist Michael Lamb explains that Martian "wind has acted like a scalpel that has cut the tops off" deposits showing the ancient river's path, and that we "do see deposits like this on Earth, but they’re never as well exposed as they are here on Mars. Earth is covered in vegetation that hides these layers." Past discoveries have also provided compelling evidence of water on Mars, bolstering the belief that the Red Planet once had a wetter and more hospitable environment. In 2015, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected "hydrated minerals," suggesting the presence of ancient flowing water. In 2017, the Curiosity rover identified a possible prehistoric lakebed in Gale Crater, providing further confirmation of Mars' watery past.

The latest discovery of evidence of a Martian river opens up new avenues for studying the planet's geological evolution and its potential for supporting life. Scientists are examining the images to decipher additional details about the ancient river, including its size, flow patterns, and composition. By unraveling the characteristics of these ancient riverbeds, researchers hope to gain deeper insights into the role of water on Mars and its implications for the planet's potential habitability. (More Mars stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.