Image: Shalbatana lake
AP
This artist rendering released by University of Colorado shows a reconstructed Mars landscape showing the Shalbatana lake as it may have looked roughly 3.4 billion years ago using data from NASA and the European Space Agency.
updated 6/18/2009 4:09:28 PM ET 2009-06-18T20:09:28

New images suggest Mars had a sizable lake on its surface billions of years ago, further evidence that the planet had a watery past.

Images snapped by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal a 30-mile-long canyon where water once flowed and beach remnants surrounding a basin.

Dubbed the Shalbatana lake for the valley it's located in, scientists believe it is about the size of Lake Champlain that borders the United States and Canada.

The findings were published in this week's Geophysical Research Letters.

Lead researcher Gaetano Di Achille of the University of Colorado at Boulder estimates the lake formed 3.4 billion years ago at a time when the planet was believed to be cold and dry. The lake probably evaporated or froze over, he said.

Cornell University Mars expert Jim Bell called it a neat find, but he said he would like to see other data besides images to support there was a lake.

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