Ancient Martian rivers revealed in stunning detail by new Nasa satellite images

RIVERS may have ran on the surface of Mars for hundreds of thousands of years.

This is according to a new study, which found water might have been on the red planet when life was evolving on Earth.

For the first time ever, what are thought to be ancient Martian rivers have been revealed in unprecedented detail.

The study was conducted as part of research into Mars before the European Space Agency’s Rosalind Franklin ExoMars Rover is blasted off there in 2022.

The researchers think they've found further evidence of water that might help in the search for life on the Martian surface.

They relied on new images of a Mars cliff face taken by Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft.

It was concluded that the high-resolution satellite images showed a landscape formed by flowing water over 3.7billion years ago.

There's evidence to suggest life on Earth began as early as 4.5billion years ago.

Dr Joel Davis, a postdoctoral researcher at London's Natural History Museum, worked on the project.

He told The Sun: "This discovery is one more piece of the puzzle in understanding what Mars was like billions of years ago.

"We’ve never seen evidence for such ancient, widespread rivers on Mars in this much detail before.

"The evidence for ancient, long-lived water on Mars is piling up and up, and our results show that Mars may had have the conditions necessary for past life to develop in.

"The next step is to go to these or similar locations with Rovers, such as ESA’s ExoMars Rover, and start looking directly for signs of ancient life."

Davis examined images taken of the inside of the Hellas Impact Crater, in the southern Martian hemisphere.

This is thought to be one of the largest impact craters in our Solar System.

Nasa's orbiter used its High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) to take detailed snaps of the area from 400km away.

The images showed a 200-metre-thick stack of layered rocks within the crater's cliffs that looked like it was formed by running water.

Dr Davis explained: "The rivers that formed these rocks weren't just a one-off event – they were probably active for tens to hundreds of thousands of years."

There is hope that these rocks will harbour evidence of past life on Mars.

This makes them likely targets for future research.

These findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications.

William McMahon, co-lead author of the study, said: "Here on Earth, sedimentary rocks have been used by geologists for generations to place constraints on what conditions were like on our planet millions or even billions of years ago.

"Now we have the technology to extend this methodology to another terrestrial planet, Mars, which hosts an ancient sedimentary rock record that extends even further back in time than our own."

Mars facts

Here's what you need to know about the red planet…

  • Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun
  • It is named after the Roman god of war
  • The landmass of Mars is very similar to Earth but due to the difference in gravity you could jump three times higher there than you can here
  • Mars is mountainous and hosts the tallest mountain known in the Solar System called Olympus Mons, which is three times higher than Everest
  • Mars is considered to be the second most habitable planet after Earth
  • It takes the planet 687 Earth days to orbit the Sun
  • So far, there has been 39 missions to Mars but only 16 of these have been successful

In other space news, the final Supermoon of 2020 will grace the skies this week.

Nasa has a list of 22 asteroids that might hit Earth.

And, the 'world's clearest picture of the Moon's craters' has been revealed.

Do you think there's life on Mars? Let us know in the comments…

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