Water flowed on Mars about a billion years longer than previous estimates: NASA MRO data

Devdiscourse News Desk | California | Updated: 27-01-2022 14:17 IST | Created: 27-01-2022 14:17 IST
Water flowed on Mars about a billion years longer than previous estimates: NASA MRO data
Representative image Image Credit: Pixabay
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Liquid water flowed on the Martian surface about a billion years longer than previous estimates, says new research that used data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

According to NASA, Caltech researchers used data from the MRO instrument called the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) to map the chloride salts across the clay-rich highlands of Mars' southern hemisphere – terrain pockmarked by impact craters. By counting the number of craters on an area of the surface, scientists can estimate its age.

Using the two powerful cameras onboard NASA's MRO, HiRISE and Context Camera, Ellen Leask, the study's lead author, and Caltech professor Bethany Ehlmann created digital elevation maps and found that many of the salts were in depressions on gently sloping volcanic plains. They also found winding, dry channels nearby – former streams that once fed surface runoff into these ponds.

Crater counting and evidence of salts on top of volcanic terrain allowed the researchers to date the deposits, NASA said in a press release on Wednesday.

"What is amazing is that after more than a decade of providing a high-resolution image, stereo, and infrared data, MRO has driven new discoveries about the nature and timing of these river-connected ancient salt ponds," said Ehlmann, CRISM's deputy principal investigator.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been mapping and photographing Mars at high resolution since 2006. It also serves as a communication relay for rovers. The spacecraft sends back thousands of images of the Martian surface to help scientists learn more about the Red Planet, including the history of water flows on or near the planet's surface.

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