Modern Mars is icy and dusty and is unlikely to have much, if any, liquid water on the surface. But billions of years ago, Mars was warmer and might have had enough liquid water to support life .
Researchers have spent decades searching for evidence of ancient water on Mars. As technology has progressed, more evidence has come to light concerning rivers, lakes, and even oceans that were once abundant on the red planet.
A high-resolution satellite has captured detailed images of a rocky Martian cliff that reveals it was formed by rivers more than 3.7 billion years ago. That is around the same time that life began to develop on Earth.
It is the first time that scientists have been able to examine these types of rocks up close.
According to study co-author Joel Davis , a postdoctoral researcher at the Natural History Museum, this is the first time that scientists have been able to examine these types of rocks up close:
We have never seen an outcrop with this amount of detail that we can definitely say it is so old. This is yet another piece of the puzzle in the search for ancient life on Mars, providing a novel insight into how much water used to occupy these ancient landscapes.
A 200-meter-thick pile of layered rocks can be seen within the cliff faces, shown in enough detail that Joel and his colleagues can be sure they are sedimentary rocks, formed by running water. The rivers would have continually changed their ravines, creating sandbars . The images also show that the river processes that formed these rocks occurred over a very long period of time.