Scientists have discovered evidence of early life on Mars

Recently, the rover has analyzed layers on ancient Mars lake with its onboard instruments and found that lake's water carried more oxygen at different depths, offering conditions favorable for different types of microbes existed simultaneously in the same body. While previous work had revealed the presence of a lake more than three billion years ago in Mars' Gale Crater, this study defines the lake's chemical conditions and uses Curiosity's powerful payload to determine that the lake was stratified. The stratified bodies of water demonstrated sharp physical or chemical distinction between the shallow and deep water. The shallow water would have been rich in oxidants brought in from the atmosphere and groundwater, and the deeper water would have been oxidant poor.

"These were very different, co-existing environments in the same lake", lead author of the report Joel Hurowitz of Stony Brook University in NY said. "This type of oxidant stratification is a common feature of lakes on Earth, and now we have found it on Mars". According to the Verge, the lake that was once in the crater had some parts that were rich in oxygen and others that weren't, and could have potentially sustained some forms of microbial life, depending on how much oxygen they needed to survive.

Since landing inside the 96-mile-wide (155 km) Gale Crater in 2012, Curiosity has been tasked with finding out whether the planet has ever had the means to support a habitable environment.

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The method the team used for detecting changes in ancient climate conditions on Mars resembles how ice cores are used to study past temperatures on Earth. Keep in mind that scientists are looking into a time when photosynthesis hadn't even evolved on Earth, so we're not sure what kind of microbial life Mars might have hosted. "This matters because it affects what minerals are deposited in the sediments, and also because oxygen is important for life". High concentrations of silica accompanied by magnetite, for example, indicate deposition in an anoxic environment, while the presence of hematite-phyllosilicate points to an oxidizing one. This latest study suggests that far from an either-or scenario, the climate on early Mars was complex and prone to fluctuations, going through both cold and warm spells over the course of millions of years.

'These oxidation states would be controlled by the dissolved oxygen content of the water'.

By comparing the differences in the chemical composition of the sedimentary rock layers, the researchers were able to deduce the climate conditions that led to their formation.

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Thus, the Gale crater was formerly a dried-up lake, formerly inhabited by microbes.

While most other outside researchers were impressed with Hurowitz's findings, there are some limitations to the study that cast some doubt as to whether Martian life was possible 3.8 billion to 3.1 billion years ago.

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