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Amazing NASA Space Images - In pictures

Vast salt water lakes on Mars evaporated around 3.5 billion years ago, salt deposits analysed by Nasa have revealed.

Nasa's Curiosity rover has been exploring the Gale crater since August 2012 and examinations of salt water deposits found drastic climate fluctuations may have caused the planet's water to evaporate.

The rover has detected salt-bearing sediments, suggesting intermittent aridity resulted in the crater's lake evaporating in stages around 3.5 billion years ago, during an era known as the Hesperian.

"We know from orbital observations during that timing Mars was changing radically, over geological times, although it still had liquid water, lakes, rivers, and also important volcanic activity it was losing its atmosphere to space," said lead author William Rapin, from the California Institute of Technology.

"We know for sure this deeply affected its climate."

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover detected the highest concentration of methane to date on the red planet last week. (AFP/Getty Images)

Using Curiosity data, a diverse range of salts have been uncovered in situ on Mars and interpreted as indicators of ancient brines, saline waters that became more plentiful as the Martian climate went through arid cycles, researchers say in the report, published in Nature Geoscience.

This could help scientists in their understanding of how liquid water disappeared from Mars's surface, though future exploration of younger rocks is expected to reveal more answers on how it dried out.

"We're discovering a reality of climatic fluctuations, between wetter and drier periods, that informs us on the types of ions, such as sulphur, a basic ingredient for life, that were available in water running on the surface at the time, and what type of environmental change life had to cope with if it ever existed then," Mr Rapin continued.

Amazing NASA Space Images - In pictures

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Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969

NASA

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This 1969 photograph of the eclipse of the sun was taken with a 16mm motion picture camera from the Apollo 12 spacecraft during its trans-Earth journey home from the moon. The fascinating view was created when the Earth moved directly between the sun and the Apollo 12 spacecraft

NASA

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Astronaut Bruce McCandless II photographed 320 ft from the Space Shuttle Challenger during the first untethered EVA, made possible by his nitrogen jet propelled backpack (Manned Manuevering Unit or MMU) in 1984

NASA

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The brilliant tapestry of young stars flaring to life resemble a glittering fireworks display in the 25th anniversary NASA Hubble Space Telescope image

NASA

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Space shuttle Atlantis blasts off from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida in 2011. This lift off is the last in the 30-year-old shuttle program

Getty Images

6/60

The first teklevision image of Earth from a weather satellite taken by the TIROS-1 satellite in 1960

NASA

7/60

The Echo 2 satellite in 1960. Once the balloon was launched into orbit, a prerecorded message from President Dwight Eisenhower was transmitted from California and heard with clarity in New Jersey

NASA

8/60

The original seven Mercury astronauts and pioneers in human space exsploration pose in their silver spacesuits in 1961

NASA

9/60

President John F. Kennedy calls for a moon landing in 1961 durning Congress

NASA

10/60

Astronaut John Glenn climbs into his Friendship 7 space capsule in the Atlas rocket in 1962. Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth

NASA

11/60

A close-up view of an astronaut's bootprint in the lunar soil, photographed with a 70mm lunar surface camera during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity (EVA) on the moon in 1969

NASA

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Man's first landing on the Moon. Lunar Module, "Eagle," touched down gently on the Sea of Tranquility on the east side of the Moon. Astronauts Edwin Aldrin and Neil Armstrong wre the first men to walk on the Moon in 1969

NASA

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After an 8 month voyage to Mars, Mariner 4 makes the first flyby of the Mars (the red planet) in 1965 and became the first spacecraft to take close-up photographs of another planet

NASA

14/60

Astronaut Edward H. White II, pilot on the Gemini-Titan 4 spaceflight, is shown during his egress from the spacecraft. His face is covered by a shaded visor to protect him from the unfiltered rays of the sun. White became the first American astronaut to walk in space. He remained outside the spacecraft for 21 minutes during the third revolution of the Gemini-4 mission in 1965

NASA

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The X-15 completed 199 flights to the edge of space from 1959-1968. Neil Armstrong was one of it's budding young pilots

NASA

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Earthrise over the moon from Apollo 8 in 1968

NASA

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American astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins lift off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, in the mammoth-sized Saturn V rocket on their way to the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969

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Astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. saluting the US flag on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 lunar mission in 1969

NASA

19/60 Home

View of Moon limb with Earth on the horizon in 1969 during the Apollo 11 mission

NASA

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Apollo XI astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin laugh with President Richard Nixon aboard the USS Hornet in 1969

Richard Nixon Foundation via Getty Images

21/60 Lunar mission

Astronaut John W. Young, commander of the Apollo 16 lunar landing mission, leaps from the lunar surface as he salutes the United States flag at the Descartes landing site during the first Apollo 16 extravehicular activity (EVA) in 1972

NASA

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First image of Viking 1's foot plantid on martian soil foot in 1976

NASA

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The first ever long distance image of the Earth and Moon together. The image photograph was taken by Voyager 1 in 1977

NASA

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A dramatic view of Jupiter's Great Red Spot and its surroundings in 1979

NASA

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The first space shuttle launch Columbia lifts off in 1981

NASA

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Astronaut Sally Ride on the flight deck of the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. She became the first American woman in space

NASA

27/60

One of the most celebrated images taken by the Hubble called 'Pillars of Creation'

NASA

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Space shuttle Challenger destructs after lift off in 1973

NASA

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NASA's Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope aboard ESA's SOHO spacecraft took this image of a huge, handle-shaped prominence in 1999. Prominences are huge clouds of relatively cool dense plasma suspended in the Sun's hot, thin corona

NASA

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Trailing a column of flame and smoke that dwarfs it, Space Shuttle Endeavour leaps into the clear blue Florida sky on mission STS-99 in 2000

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Space Shuttle Atlantis clears the tower as it roars into space on mission STS-106 after a perfect on-time launch in 2000

NASA

32/60 2004

The deepest view of 10,000 galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope called the Hubble Ultra Field Deep (2004)

NASA

33/60 2005

A new view of the Eagle Nebula, one of the two largest and sharpest images Hubble Space Telescope has ever taken (2005)

NASA

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International Space Station pictured by the crew of Atlantis in 2008

NASA

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The rim of Gale Crater is visible in the distance, through the dusty haze, in this view of NASA's Curiosity rover of a sloping hillside on Mount Sharp

NASA

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Taken on June 03, 2008 and released by NASA on June 4, 2008 shows US space shuttle Discovery Mission Specialist Michael Fossum being photographed by US Mission Specialist Ronald Garan (reflected in Fossum's face shield) as they work outside The International Space Station during the first of three planned space walks.

AFP/Getty Images

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In celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, NASA's Great Observatories -- Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory -- have produced a matched trio of images of the central region of our Milky Way

NASA

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A striking black and white image showing the detail of the planet Saturn

NASA

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This majestic false-color image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows 'mountains' where stars are born. These towering pillars of cool gas and dust are illuminated at their tips with light from warm embryonic stars

NASA

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The space shuttle Atlantis is seen over the Bahamas in 2011 prior to a perfect docking with the International Space Station

NASA

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Aurora Australis, seen from a point over the southeast Tasman Sea near southern New Zealand. in 2011

NASA

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NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Expedition 32 flight engineer, appears to touch the bright sun during the mission's third session of extravehicular activity (EVA). During the six-hour, 28-minute spacewalk in 2012

NASA

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Behold one of the more stunningly detailed images of the Earth yet created. This Blue Marble Earth montage, created from photographs taken by the VIIRS instrument in 2012 on board the Suomi NPP satellite, shows many stunning details of our home planet

NASA

44/60

Numerous recognizable features appear in this detailed view of London, photographed by an Expedition 10 crew member on the International Space Station (ISS). The most striking visual features are green open spaces such as Regent's Park, Hyde Park and St. James's Park east of Buckingham Palace

NASA

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International Space Station image of London at night

NASA

46/60

This image of Tropical Storm Anna taken from the International Space Station in 2015

NASA

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Pluto's haze layer and its blue colour, taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) in 2015

NASA

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NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, dark, narrow streaks on the slopes of Hale Crater are inferred to be formed by seasonal flow of water on surface of present-day Mars. These dark features on the slopes are called "recurring slope lineae" or RSL

NASA

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Earth observation taken during a night pass by the Expedition 49 crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in 2016

NASA

50/60

The moon rises in low Earth orbit by NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik from the International Space Station in 2017

NASA

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Hurricane Harvey is pictured off the coast of Texas in 2017

NASA

52/60

The International Space Station continues its orbit around the Earth as Expedition 50 astronauts captured this night image of sparkling cities and a sliver of daylight framing the northern hemisphere in 2017

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This composite image made from a series of 2018 photos shows a self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover in the Gale Crater

NASA

54/60

US. National Parks From Space. Mt Saint Helen's looking spectacular from above

NASA

55/60

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft as it lifts off on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in 2018

NASA

56/60

NASA's Juno spacecraft captures Jupiter's southern hemisphere, as the spacecraft performed its 13th close flyby of Jupiter in 2018

NASA

57/60

The stunning iamge was shared on social media by astronaut Paolo Nespoli

NASA

58/60

The Bailey's Beads effect is seen as the moon makes its final move over the sun during the total solar eclipse

NASA

59/60

The Moon is seen passing in front of the Sun during a solar eclipse from Ross Lake, Northern Cascades National Park, Washington

NASA

60/60

Swirling cloud belts and tumultuous vortices within Jupiter's northern hemisphere picture taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft as it performed it's 13th flypast. Juno was about 9,600 miles (15,500 kilometers) from the planet's cloud tops.

NASA

1/60

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969

NASA

2/60

This 1969 photograph of the eclipse of the sun was taken with a 16mm motion picture camera from the Apollo 12 spacecraft during its trans-Earth journey home from the moon. The fascinating view was created when the Earth moved directly between the sun and the Apollo 12 spacecraft

NASA

3/60

Astronaut Bruce McCandless II photographed 320 ft from the Space Shuttle Challenger during the first untethered EVA, made possible by his nitrogen jet propelled backpack (Manned Manuevering Unit or MMU) in 1984

NASA

4/60

The brilliant tapestry of young stars flaring to life resemble a glittering fireworks display in the 25th anniversary NASA Hubble Space Telescope image

NASA

5/60

Space shuttle Atlantis blasts off from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida in 2011. This lift off is the last in the 30-year-old shuttle program

Getty Images

6/60

The first teklevision image of Earth from a weather satellite taken by the TIROS-1 satellite in 1960

NASA

7/60

The Echo 2 satellite in 1960. Once the balloon was launched into orbit, a prerecorded message from President Dwight Eisenhower was transmitted from California and heard with clarity in New Jersey

NASA

8/60

The original seven Mercury astronauts and pioneers in human space exsploration pose in their silver spacesuits in 1961

NASA

9/60

President John F. Kennedy calls for a moon landing in 1961 durning Congress

NASA

10/60

Astronaut John Glenn climbs into his Friendship 7 space capsule in the Atlas rocket in 1962. Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth

NASA

11/60

A close-up view of an astronaut's bootprint in the lunar soil, photographed with a 70mm lunar surface camera during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity (EVA) on the moon in 1969

NASA

12/60

Man's first landing on the Moon. Lunar Module, "Eagle," touched down gently on the Sea of Tranquility on the east side of the Moon. Astronauts Edwin Aldrin and Neil Armstrong wre the first men to walk on the Moon in 1969

NASA

13/60

After an 8 month voyage to Mars, Mariner 4 makes the first flyby of the Mars (the red planet) in 1965 and became the first spacecraft to take close-up photographs of another planet

NASA

14/60

Astronaut Edward H. White II, pilot on the Gemini-Titan 4 spaceflight, is shown during his egress from the spacecraft. His face is covered by a shaded visor to protect him from the unfiltered rays of the sun. White became the first American astronaut to walk in space. He remained outside the spacecraft for 21 minutes during the third revolution of the Gemini-4 mission in 1965

NASA

15/60

The X-15 completed 199 flights to the edge of space from 1959-1968. Neil Armstrong was one of it's budding young pilots

NASA

16/60

Earthrise over the moon from Apollo 8 in 1968

NASA

17/60

American astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins lift off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, in the mammoth-sized Saturn V rocket on their way to the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969

18/60

Astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. saluting the US flag on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 lunar mission in 1969

NASA

19/60 Home

View of Moon limb with Earth on the horizon in 1969 during the Apollo 11 mission

NASA

20/60

Apollo XI astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin laugh with President Richard Nixon aboard the USS Hornet in 1969

Richard Nixon Foundation via Getty Images

21/60 Lunar mission

Astronaut John W. Young, commander of the Apollo 16 lunar landing mission, leaps from the lunar surface as he salutes the United States flag at the Descartes landing site during the first Apollo 16 extravehicular activity (EVA) in 1972

NASA

22/60

First image of Viking 1's foot plantid on martian soil foot in 1976

NASA

23/60

The first ever long distance image of the Earth and Moon together. The image photograph was taken by Voyager 1 in 1977

NASA

24/60

A dramatic view of Jupiter's Great Red Spot and its surroundings in 1979

NASA

25/60

The first space shuttle launch Columbia lifts off in 1981

NASA

26/60

Astronaut Sally Ride on the flight deck of the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. She became the first American woman in space

NASA

27/60

One of the most celebrated images taken by the Hubble called 'Pillars of Creation'

NASA

28/60

Space shuttle Challenger destructs after lift off in 1973

NASA

29/60

NASA's Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope aboard ESA's SOHO spacecraft took this image of a huge, handle-shaped prominence in 1999. Prominences are huge clouds of relatively cool dense plasma suspended in the Sun's hot, thin corona

NASA

30/60

Trailing a column of flame and smoke that dwarfs it, Space Shuttle Endeavour leaps into the clear blue Florida sky on mission STS-99 in 2000

31/60

Space Shuttle Atlantis clears the tower as it roars into space on mission STS-106 after a perfect on-time launch in 2000

NASA

32/60 2004

The deepest view of 10,000 galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope called the Hubble Ultra Field Deep (2004)

NASA

33/60 2005

A new view of the Eagle Nebula, one of the two largest and sharpest images Hubble Space Telescope has ever taken (2005)

NASA

34/60

International Space Station pictured by the crew of Atlantis in 2008

NASA

35/60

The rim of Gale Crater is visible in the distance, through the dusty haze, in this view of NASA's Curiosity rover of a sloping hillside on Mount Sharp

NASA

36/60

Taken on June 03, 2008 and released by NASA on June 4, 2008 shows US space shuttle Discovery Mission Specialist Michael Fossum being photographed by US Mission Specialist Ronald Garan (reflected in Fossum's face shield) as they work outside The International Space Station during the first of three planned space walks.

AFP/Getty Images

37/60

In celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, NASA's Great Observatories -- Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory -- have produced a matched trio of images of the central region of our Milky Way

NASA

38/60

A striking black and white image showing the detail of the planet Saturn

NASA

39/60

This majestic false-color image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows 'mountains' where stars are born. These towering pillars of cool gas and dust are illuminated at their tips with light from warm embryonic stars

NASA

40/60

The space shuttle Atlantis is seen over the Bahamas in 2011 prior to a perfect docking with the International Space Station

NASA

41/60

Aurora Australis, seen from a point over the southeast Tasman Sea near southern New Zealand. in 2011

NASA

42/60

NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Expedition 32 flight engineer, appears to touch the bright sun during the mission's third session of extravehicular activity (EVA). During the six-hour, 28-minute spacewalk in 2012

NASA

43/60

Behold one of the more stunningly detailed images of the Earth yet created. This Blue Marble Earth montage, created from photographs taken by the VIIRS instrument in 2012 on board the Suomi NPP satellite, shows many stunning details of our home planet

NASA

44/60

Numerous recognizable features appear in this detailed view of London, photographed by an Expedition 10 crew member on the International Space Station (ISS). The most striking visual features are green open spaces such as Regent's Park, Hyde Park and St. James's Park east of Buckingham Palace

NASA

45/60

International Space Station image of London at night

NASA

46/60

This image of Tropical Storm Anna taken from the International Space Station in 2015

NASA

47/60

Pluto's haze layer and its blue colour, taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) in 2015

NASA

48/60

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, dark, narrow streaks on the slopes of Hale Crater are inferred to be formed by seasonal flow of water on surface of present-day Mars. These dark features on the slopes are called "recurring slope lineae" or RSL

NASA

49/60

Earth observation taken during a night pass by the Expedition 49 crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in 2016

NASA

50/60

The moon rises in low Earth orbit by NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik from the International Space Station in 2017

NASA

51/60

Hurricane Harvey is pictured off the coast of Texas in 2017

NASA

52/60

The International Space Station continues its orbit around the Earth as Expedition 50 astronauts captured this night image of sparkling cities and a sliver of daylight framing the northern hemisphere in 2017

53/60

This composite image made from a series of 2018 photos shows a self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover in the Gale Crater

NASA

54/60

US. National Parks From Space. Mt Saint Helen's looking spectacular from above

NASA

55/60

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft as it lifts off on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in 2018

NASA

56/60

NASA's Juno spacecraft captures Jupiter's southern hemisphere, as the spacecraft performed its 13th close flyby of Jupiter in 2018

NASA

57/60

The stunning iamge was shared on social media by astronaut Paolo Nespoli

NASA

58/60

The Bailey's Beads effect is seen as the moon makes its final move over the sun during the total solar eclipse

NASA

59/60

The Moon is seen passing in front of the Sun during a solar eclipse from Ross Lake, Northern Cascades National Park, Washington

NASA

60/60

Swirling cloud belts and tumultuous vortices within Jupiter's northern hemisphere picture taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft as it performed it's 13th flypast. Juno was about 9,600 miles (15,500 kilometers) from the planet's cloud tops.

NASA

Salts of this form and in such large quantity is not something Curiosity has seen in older rocks it has previously looked at, indicating that a period of high salinity in the crater's lake may have occurred as water evaporated.

Earlier this year, a separate group of scientists claimed rivers bigger and more powerful than those on Earth flowed on Mars later in the planet's history than previously thought.

Curiosity has made a number of observations during its time on Mars, including spikes in methane, which is usually an indicator of life.

Additional reporting by Press Association.

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