Images taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Global Surveyor satellites show dry, cracked surfaces within Martian craters. Previously thought to have been caused by subsurface permafrost contractions, it’s now believed these parched surfaces indicate the remains of dried lake beds.
Similar to features found in dry lake beds on Earth, the cracks on Mars measure up to 30 feet wide and form polygonal shapes up to 460 feet across.
The cracks make both large- and small-scale patterns in the dry Martian soil.
Scientists believe Mars sustained liquid surface water between 4.6 and 3.8 billion years ago, when rains would have filled lakes that may have lasted for thousands of years. Liquid water hasn’t been found yet on Mars today, but evidence that it existed in the past may mean it still exists beneath the surface somewhere still.
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Image credit: NASA/JPL