NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars' Gale Crate on Aug. 6 2012. Since then, it has made some surprising discoveries.  (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Mars Curiosity rover's surprising finds from the Red Planet through the years

From evidence of a stream to key ingredients for life, NASA's car-sized Curiosity rover has made some interesting finds since it landed on Mars back in August 2012.

Photos fed back from the Red Planet have captivated Earth for years — and on June 7, officialls announced its latest discovery.

NASA’s Planetary Science Division said it would soon release "new science results," leading many eager space fans to question whether the rover has found new evidence of life on Mars.

Scientists later confirmed that they did not discover life on Mars, but did find organic molecules that could provide vital clues in their search.

“Organic compounds are fundamental to our search for life,” Paul Mahaffy, director of Solar System Exploration Division at Goddard, said.

In May, the Curiosity rover collected its first drilled sample from the planet in more than a year.

"The team used tremendous ingenuity to devise a new drilling technique and implement it on another planet," Curiosity Deputy Project Manager Steve Lee said in an online statement at the time. "Those are two vital inches of innovation from 60 million miles away. We're thrilled that the result was so successful."

The rover is able to snap images as well as analyze various rock and soil samples taken from the Red Planet. Here's what the device has discovered thus far.

Ancient stream bed

Mars stream

NASA's Curiosity rover found evidence of an ancient streambed in September 2012.  (NASA)

A stream once ran across the Red Planet, the Curosity discovered in September 2012. Scientists had previously found examples that suggested there was once water on the planet, but NASA said this evidence of a stream bed was the "first of its kind."

Curiosity picked up rocks that were made up of ancient stream bed gravel, proving water used to flow where the rover was driving — between the Gale Crater and a mountain inside the crater called Mount Sharp.

"From the size of gravels it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about 3 feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep," Curiosity science co-investigator William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley, said in a blog post on NASA's website. "Plenty of papers have been written about channels on Mars with many different hypotheses about the flows in them. This is the first time we're actually seeing water-transported gravel on Mars. This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to direct observation of it."



In 2014 the rover measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it.  (NASA)

In 2014, the rover measured a "tenfold spike in methane," a chemical compound, in Mars' atmosphere.

"This temporary increase in methane -- sharply up and then back down -- tells us there must be some relatively localized source," Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and member of the Curiosity rover science team, said in an online statement about the discovery. "There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock."


NASA clouds

NASA's Curiosity rover captured images of cirrus clouds on July 17, 2017.  (NASA)

Yes, there are clouds on Mars. Curosity captured the beauty of cirrus clouds, which are made up of ice crystals, on July 17, 2017.

"These Martian clouds are likely composed of crystals of water ice that condense onto dust grains in the cold Martian atmosphere. Cirrus wisps appear as ice crystals fall and evaporate in patterns known as 'fall streaks' or 'mare's tails," NASA said in a statement released a month later.

It wasn't the first time clouds have been spotted on Mars — but it was the clearest picture of the clouds that scientists had ever seen, NASA said.


NASA's Mars rover Curiosity.

NASA's Curiosity rover captured traces of the element Boron in September 2017.  (NASA)

Traces of the chemical element Boron were found on the Red Planet in September 2017.

On Earth, the chemical is a "necessary component for the origin of life," a study published in peer-reviewed scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters explained. "On Mars, its presence suggests that subsurface groundwater conditions could have supported prebiotic chemical reactions if organics were also present and provides additional support for the past habitability of Gale crater."

Organic molecules


NASA revealed the Curiosity rover found organic molecules on Mars on June 7, 2018.  (NASA)

NASA revealed the Curosity rover found organic molecules on Mars on June 7, 2018.

“We found organic molecules in rocks from an ancient lake bed,” Jen Eigenbrode, research scientist at Goddard, announced.

The molecules could provide a vital guide for scientists in their search for life on Mars.

"All life that we know of is based on organic molecules," Eigenbrode explained. 'There's a whole suite of chemical and physical things that we could measure to find signatures of life."


Fox News' James Rogers contributed to this report.