Curiosity Rover Finds Evidence of Ancient Martian Stream

Discovery is first of its kind.

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NASA scientists believe they've found evidence of an ancient stream running along Mars' surface, the agency announced Thursday.

The find—gathered from the Curiosity Rover Thursday—is the first of its kind. Previous evidence suggested that water exists or may have existed on the Red Planet, but the newly-discovered stream "once ran vigorously" near the Gale Crater and may have been several feet deep at some parts, according to William Dietrich, co-investigator of the project.

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"This is the first time we're actually seeing water-transported gravel on Mars," he said in a statement. "This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to direct observation of it."

Curiosity's telephoto lens was able to determine that certain rocks were transported by water, not wind, the agency said.

Despite the find, NASA is going to continue on its stated course of climbing Mount Sharp, because organic material touched by the stream is less likely to be preserved. NASA scientists didn't rule out returning to the stream in the future.

"A long-flowing stream can be a habitable environment," John Grotzinger, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist said. "It is not our top choice as an environment for preservation of organics, though. We're still going to Mount Sharp, but this is insurance that we have already found our first potentially habitable environment."

Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at