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An enormous crater near the northern plains of Mars once harboured an ancient lake that could have supported microbial life, Nasa scientists claim.

The freshwater lake stood for more than one hundred thousand years at the base of Gale Crater, a 150km-wide formation that was created when a meteor punched into the red planet around 3.7bn years ago.

Tests on rock samples by Nasa’s Curiosity rover revealed the presence of fine clay minerals that formed in a standing body of water, and coarse-grained sandstones laid down by river flows that drained into the lake.

An enormous crater near the northern plains of Mars once harboured an ancient lake that could have supported microbial life, Nasa scientists claim.

The freshwater lake stood for more than one hundred thousand years at the base of Gale Crater, a 150km-wide formation that was created when a meteor punched into the red planet around 3.7bn years ago.

Tests on rock samples by Nasa’s Curiosity rover revealed the presence of fine clay minerals that formed in a standing body of water, and coarse-grained sandstones laid down by river flows that drained into the lake.

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