London: Providing evidence of a long and varied history of water on the Red Planet, a new study has shown that mineral veins found in Mars's Gale Crater were formed by the evaporation of ancient lakes.
The researchers used the Mars Curiosity rover to explore Yellowknife Bay in Gale Crater on Mars, examining the mineralogy of veins that were paths for groundwater in mudstones.
The study suggests that the veins formed as the sediments from the ancient lake were buried, heated to about 50 degrees Celsius and corroded.
"The taste of this Martian groundwater would be rather unpleasant, with about 20 times the content of sulphate and sodium than bottled mineral water for instance!,” said one of the researchers John Bridges from University of Leicester in Britain.
"However, some microbes on Earth do like sulphur and iron rich fluids, because they can use those two elements to gain energy. Therefore, for the question of habitability at Gale Crater the taste of the water is very exciting news," Bridges noted.
The research suggest that evaporation of ancient lakes in the Yellowknife Bay would have led to the formation of silica and sulphate-rich deposits.
Subsequent dissolution by groundwater of these deposits led to the formation of pure sulphate veins within the Yellowknife Bay mudstone, said the study published in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science.
"These result provide further evidence for the long and varied history of water in Gale Crater. Multiple generations of fluids, each with a unique chemistry, must have been present to account for what we find in the rock record today," Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity Project Scientist from the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said.