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'Data from NASA's Curiosity rover hints at ancient megaflood in Mars'

Data from NASAs Curiosity rover hints at ancient megaflood in Mars
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New York: Giant flash floods once washed through Gale Crater on Mars' equator around four billion years ago, according to a study which hints at the possibility that life may have existed on the Red Planet.

The research, published recently in the journal Scientific Reports, assessed data collected by NASA's Curiosity rover -- launched in November 2011 -- and found that "gigantic flash floods," likely touched off by the heat of a meteoritic impact, unleashed the ice stored on the Martian surface.

Based on the analysis, scientists including those from Cornell University in the US, said these floods of "unimaginable magnitude" set up gigantic ripples that are tell-tale geologic structures familiar to scientists on the Earth.

"We identified megafloods for the first time using detailed sedimentological data observed by the rover Curiosity," said study co-author Alberto G. Fairen from Cornell

University.

According to the scientists, geological features including the work of water and wind have been frozen in time on Mars for about four billion years.

They said these features convey processes that shaped the surface of both the Earth and the Mars in the past.

This case includes the occurrence of giant wave-shaped features in sedimentary layers of Gale crater, often called "megaripples" or "antidunes" that are about 30-feet high and spaced about 450 feet apart, lead author Ezat Heydari, a professor of physics at Jackson State University in the US, noted.

The antidunes are indicative of flowing megafloods at the bottom of Mars' Gale Crater about four billion years ago, which are identical to the features formed by melting ice on Earth about two million years ago, Heydari added.

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