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Curiosity finds signs of ancient streambed on Mars


This set of images compares the Link outcrop of rocks on Mars (left) with similar rocks seen on Earth (right).


NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS and PSI, from NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Facebook page

NASA's Curiosity rover has turned up some of the best evidence yet that there were once bodies of water on Mars.

The space agency announced on Thursday that Curiosity sent scientists detailed images from the red planet that serve as "evidence for an ancient, flowing stream on Mars at a few sites," according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This is the first evidence of actual streambeds on Mars, according to the laboratory, though scientists have previously uncovered signs of water.

Scientists quickly named the rocky formations "Hottah" — after Hottah Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories — and "Link."

The size and shape of the gravel in the apparent ancient streambeds suggests that the rocks were carried by water for significant distances, Slate reported.

“This is the first time we’re actually seeing water-transported gravel on Mars. This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to direct observation of it,” William Dietrich, professor of geomorphology and member of the Curiosity imaging science team, told the Washington Post.

NASA scientists had targeted the Gale Crater, where Hottah and Link were found, for exploration because of previous photos taken from space that suggested the area has a "watery past," the Associated Press reported.

The exciting finding is further evidence in the quest to discover whether Mars has ever supported life.