Mars’ Gale Crater May Have Never Contained a Giant Lake

According to a new study, there was never a giant lake in the Gale Crater on Mars. This contradicts previous reports based on data collected by NASA’s Curiosity Rover that seemingly found evidence that the 96-mile-wide crater supported a massive lake about 3.7 billion years ago.

Michael Meyer, who is the Mars Exploration Program lead scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, stated back in 2014, “This lake was large enough it could have lasted millions of years — sufficient time for life to get started and thrive, sufficient time for lake sediments to build up and form Mount Sharp.” Mount Sharp is a large mound (about 3.4 miles or 5.5 kilometers in height) that rises up from the middle of Gale Crater.

Gale Crater imaged by Mars Odyssey’s THEMIS.

However, a new study has a put a damper on those claims as the researchers are claiming that the mudstone deposits found in the crater were likely brought in by volcanic activity or the Martian wind before acidic rain altered them. Joe Michalski, who is the deputy director of the HKU’s Laboratory for Space Research, told Space.com, “This is probably precipitation-driven chemical weathering of a soil-type environment.”

He went on to say that instead of one giant lake, there were probably several small lakes in the crater that only lasted at the most about a few tens of thousands of years each. If they are correct in their theory, this could be very damaging news in regards to life ever having lived in the Gale Crater. Their study was published in the journal Science Advances.

Was there one massive lake or several small ones in the crater?

Just last month, it was reported that X-rays conducted on clay samples found in the crater revealed that they contained a mineral called glauconite which is also found on our planet and could mean that there was once life in the Gale Crater as explained by Elisabeth Losa-Adams from the University of Vigo, Spain, “Glauconitic clays can be used as ‘a proxy’ for stable conditions,” adding, “The conditions under which these minerals form are friendly for the presence of life.”

With all of these conflicting reports, it’s hard to keep track of what experts are thinking in regards to life on Mars and how much water was actually on the planet. This is just the latest of many theories and I’m sure there will be much more to come.

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