Recently published research suggests that areas on Mars were able to support life after NASA's Curiosity rover analyzed samples of an ancient lake bed.
The freshwater lake is thought to have existed roughly 3.7 billion years ago, researchers stated while suggesting the new data would points to habitable environments occurring more recently than had previously been stated.
The new findings were published in the Dec. 9 edition of the journal Science in six different papers. The research details a more comprehensive understanding of the Martian surface billions of years ago and a more thorough understanding if the Yellowknife Bay region in particular.
"Quite honestly, it just looks very Earth-like," said Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, told Space.com.
"You've got an alluvial fan, which is being fed by streams that originate in mountains, that accumulates a body of water," Grotzinger added. "That probably was not unlike what happened during the last glacial maximum in the Western U.S."
Researchers stated that the ancient Martian lake was located in a portion of the 96-mile-wide Gale Crater. The creator has been the main focuses of the Curiosity rover since landing on the planet in August 2012.
"You can imagine that, if life evolved on Mars and never got beyond the point of chemolithoautotrophy, then in the absence of competition from other types of microbes, these systems might have been dominated by that type of metabolic pathway," Grotzinger said. "And that's an un-Earth-like situation."
The NASA mission's goal was to determine if the Gale Crater could ever have supported microbial life. In March of this year scientists announced that a location close to Curiosity's landing site known as Yellowknife Bay was in fact habitable.
"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," Sanjeev Gupta of Imperial College London, co-author of one of the new papers, said in a statement.