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Chinese rover detects water existed on Mars more recently than thought

Chinese rover detects water existed on Mars more recently than thought
Scientists used instruments to analyze rocks and minerals on the surface of Mars, finding evidence there was substantial liquid water on the planet more recently than previously thought. Photo courtesy of the China National Space Administration

May 11 (UPI) -- Nearly one year after landing on Mars, scientists say China's Zhurong rover collected data indicating water may have existed on the planet over a longer period of time than previously thought.

A study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances said Zhurong detected evidence that the Utopia Planitia basin had "substantial" liquid water during its most recent epoch of geologic history -- the Amazonian. Scientists previously believed this time period, about 700 million years ago, to be cold and dry and liquid water activities to be "extremely limited."

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Before assessing the new data, scientists believed that Mars lost much of its water after its Hesperian period, about 3 billion years ago.

The Zhurong rover touched down on Mars' surface May 15 as part of the Tianwen-1 mission. The main point of the mission was to search for signs of life, ice and water.

Scientists from China's National Space Science Center and the Chinese Academy of Sciences analyzed data gathered from a laser-induced breakdown spectrometer, telescopic microimaging camera and short-wave infrared spectrometer to study minerals to determine the amount of liquid water that would have been at the site millions of years ago.

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Exploration of Mars through history

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used two different cameras to create this panoramic selfie, comprised of 60 images, in front of Mont Mercou, a rock outcrop that stands 20 feet tall on March 26, 2021, the 3,070th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. These were combined with 11 images taken by the Mastcam on the mast, or "head," of the rover on March 16. The hole visible to the left of the rover is where its robotic drill sampled a rock nicknamed "Nontron." The Curiosity team is nicknaming features in this part of Mars using names from the region around the village of Nontron in southwestern France. Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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