Ancient Mars lake may have held as much water as Lake Champlain in US

June 20th, 2009 - 2:26 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 20 (ANI): Scientists have found evidence of the remnants of an ancient lake nestled in a valley near the Martian equator, which may have held as much water as Lake Champlain.

According to a report in Disocvery News, the evidence was found by Gaetano di Achille and a team of researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder, US, in the form of an ancient shoreline ringing Shalbatana Vallis, a gash in Mars’ surface just east of the massive volcanic province, Tharsis Rise.

Though dry and frigid now, the traces it left behind hint at a water body younger than any other on the planet, and its sediments are a prime target for finding fossilized alien life.

When Mars coalesced billions of years ago it was much warmer, and probably wet. Features that appear to be eroded river deltas more than 3.7 billion years old dot parts of the planet’s surface.

Researchers have speculated they are evidence of lakes - and primitive life may have once existed on the surface.

Now, Gaetano’s team of researchers estimated from powerful images obtained using the powerful High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), that the ancient lake was 450 meters (1,476 feet) deep and nearly identical in volume to Lake Champlain in Vermont.

Even more intriguingly, it dried up around 3.4 billion years ago - 300 million years after the Red Planet’s “warm and wet” phase is thought to have ended.

Its deltas appear rich in fine-grained sediments, a sign that they have been relatively untouched by erosion.

“Deltas are high priority targets for exploration because they imply copious and long-lived water,” team member Brian Hynek of the University of Colorado in Boulder told Discovery News. “And the sedimentation process is very effective at burying and preserving organic material,” he said.

The lake is a tempting place to look for fossilized alien life forms.

“Life wouldn’t have arisen in this lake, but lakes on Earth provide many habitats for countless organisms,” said Patrick McGovern of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

“This lake could have helped sustain and proliferate life on Mars, if it ever arose,” he added. (ANI)

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