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The picture above shows the newly discovered dry lakes in the highlands of Mars. The deep canyon is located above the lakes and once flowed to the North. The area that was once full of liquid is colored black in this photograph.
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R. P. Irwin III and G. A. Franz, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Newly Discovered Martian Lakes and Canyon!
News story originally written on July 2, 2002

Geologists from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. have found empty lakes and a river in the highlands of Mars. They don't contain any water, but they may indicate that the cold, desert-like planet once had a very different climate that allowed liquid water to flow at its surface.

The research team has identified a large, dry lake that once filled several impact craters. The large lake is 1400 miles long and is about the size of the U.S. states Texas and New Mexico. Two smaller dry lakes were found in the region as well.

They also identified a flood channel that connects to, and leads away from, the giant lake called Ma'adim Vallis that has carved more deeply into the Martian rock than the Grand Canyon has carved into rocks on Earth.

These new discoveries may indicate that Mars was once a warmer and wetter place than it is now, with water flowing at the surface. If life did exist on Mars before the climate changed to be colder and drier, the research team recommends that the best place to look for evidence of that life would be in the sediments and rocks that lie at the bottom of the ancient lakes because this is where fossils would most likely be preserved.


Last modified August 6, 2002 by Lisa Gardiner.

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