Mars today is marked by its endless red desert plains. But not always. There’s water and it’s been flowing on its surface longer than previously estimated, according to a new NASA study. The Red Planet, like the Earth billions of years ago, ripples in rivers and ponds, offering potential habitats for microbial life. Over time, however, as Earth’s atmosphere thins, this water evaporates. It is thought that water evaporated about billion years ago. But two scientists studying data accumulated by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) over the past 15 years have found evidence of a dramatic shift in the timeline.

Their research shows that was liquid water on Mars between 2 and 2.5 billion years ago. This means that the water flow on Mars is a billion years longer than previous estimates. Scientists rely on deposits of chloride salts left behind by evaporating icy meltwater. Until recently, certain networks of valleys on Mars suggested water flowed there, but there was no conclusive evidence. Salt deposits confirm the existence of liquid water, the first mineral evidence.

The findings have been published in the open-access journal AGU Advances. They raise interesting new questions, including how long microbial life could survive on Mars.

The study’s lead authors Ellen Leask and Caltech Bethany Ehlmann used data from an MRO instrument called the Mars Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer to map chloride salts in the southern hemisphere of Mars. In a report on NASA’s website, Ehlmann said the shocking fact is that, more than a decade after providing high-resolution, stereo and infrared images, the MRO’s understanding of the nature and timing of these ancient river-connected salt ponds New discoveries were made. data.

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter, launched in 2001, first detected salt crystals 1 years ago. The MRO has a higher resolution instrument than the Odyssey and has been studying salts since its launch in 2005.