NASA Shares First Images Of A River On Mars

NASA found evidence on Mars of rivers.

By Robert Scucci | Published

NASA has wowed us again with yet another amazing discovery on Mars that appears to be evidence of an ancient river. This discovery was recently made by NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars over two years ago. And these new images suggest that the Jezero Crater that is being explored may very well be the host to an intricate network of waterways that existed billions of years ago.

Though NASA has suspected that Mars’ surface once boasted rivers, they weren’t sure of these waterways’ breadth and scope until compiling these hundreds of images. And the results are staggering; initial analysis states that Mars once had a high-energy river system that caused the curved layers of sediment that we are now seeing in detail for the first time. With the help of the Perseverance rover, we will be able to definitively determine what kind of river we’re dealing with on the Martian surface.

Currently, experts are debating whether these waterways found on Mars are snakelike structures like the Mississippi River, or part of a more intricately braided river system. But one thing that we know for certain is that the 820 feet tall layers of sediment are absolutely the result of a raging river that was once believed to be a more shallow deposit. And since we’re only dealing with one specific locale known as “Skrinkle Haven,” it’s reasonable to assume that Mars’ surface has similar river patterns across the entire planet.

Credit: NASA

And the structural similarities between these ancient river patterns on Mars are strikingly reminiscent of Earth-based rivers, according to postdoctoral researcher Libby Ives, who works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that operates the Perseverance rover. Ives has stated that the process of erosion and sediment stacking on Mars is very similar to the rivers on Earth that she has studied in the past.

It’s also worth noting that although these sediment structures are quite tall as they presently stand, that we have eons worth of erosion to consider. This could only mean that Mars once boasted river systems on a scale that is currently beyond our comprehension. Ives further elaborated on this sentiment of sediment by stating that “these layers are anomalously tall for rivers on Earth,” meaning that there is still so much more for NASA to uncover in their research.

These images, which were captured by the Mastcam-Z camera, are instrumental in furthering our understanding of rivers on Mars. And this is only the beginning of putting together pieces to a much larger puzzle. In other words, if there is conclusive evidence that there were once massive river systems on the surface of Mars, then there could very well be signs of ancient microbial life along these river beds as well.

And what’s more, evidence of this kind of life form could be preserved in this sedimentary rock that’s currently being surveyed.

As for the next steps, NASA intends to work with the ESA (European Space Agency) to collect samples from Mars from along these river beds so they can be brought back to Earth and further studied. In doing so, researchers will hopefully be able to find clues that reveal information about Mars’ past climate and geology. Needless to say, we’re very excited about this development and uncovering Mars’ ancient watery past.