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NASA's Curiosity rover has discovered the remains of an ancient lakebed providing evidence that Mars could have support life a very long time ago.
The lake, found in an area of Mars known as Yellowknife Bay, once had "slightly salty liquid water," according to Mars Exploration Program's lead scientist Michael Meyer, reports CNN. The lake was first discovered in March, but six studies were recently published in the journal Science.
The rover discovered evidence of "mudstone," which means that a calm lake would have had to have been there once, perhaps billions of years ago. Lead author in one study Douglas Ming said, "This is a game changer since these are the kind of materials that are very 'Earth-like' and conducive for life."
The lake would have existed roughly about 3.7 billion years ago, researchers have said, according to Space.com. Other scientists have echoed Ming's assessment that the lake and the land around it is "Earth-like."
The studies looked at the evidence that was found in March to explain that it was likely that Mars could have supported microbial life. In addition to the mudstone, there was also evidence of sulfur, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen.
Imperial College London's Sanjeev Gupta, a co-author of one of the reports, said, "It is exciting to think that billions of years ago, ancient microbial life may have existed in the lake's calm waters, converting a rich array of elements into energy."
image: Wikimedia Commons