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Billions of years ago, Mars lost its atmosphere, and with it went Mars's once prolific assemblage of liquid water lakes and streams. Yet even without an atmosphere, the Red Planet hasn't always been as bone dry as it is today. A new discovery suggests that as recently as a mere 500,000 years ago, certain nooks on Mars had far more active, flowing water than scientists had imagined.

A research team led by Tjalling de Haas, a physical geographer at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, has just completed their scientific study on a one-million-year-old Martian crater called Istok, which appears today in Nature Communications. To their surprise, the scientists found that the gullies and sediment deposits on the now-dry Istok crater's slopes must have been caused by periodic flows of an incredible amount of muddy ice water. These flows, caused by melting snowpack, would have been several inches deep. To make them would have required 10 times more liquid water (and snow) than predicted by our best models of Mars's historical climate.

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