The Mars rover Curiosity seems to have landed near a long-extinct river bed on Mars. NASA mission scientist John Grotzinger described the nearby environment as a once potentially habitable site.
“A long-flowing stream can be a habitable environment,” he said. “We’re still going to Mount Sharp [a three-mile-high mound at the center of the crater], but this is insurance that we have already found our first potentially habitable environment.”
Curiosity team scientists determined that flowing water was once present near the Gale Crater landing site based on the telltale size, shape and scattering of pebbles and gravel nearby, especially those found in conglomerate rocks at three sites.
The roundedness of the pebbles is especially significant, they said, and strongly suggests that the rocks were carried down a roughly 20- to 25-mile stream or river and were smoothed along the way.
In order to determine whether the water had ever supported life, Curiosity will analyze the river pebbles in the chemistry labs it carries to determine if carbon is present. Link -via Fark
(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS and PSI)