Life on Mars, and not too long ago.

The Denver Post‘s (ahem) “nerd blog” has some interesting things to say about the planet next door – which, University of Colorado researchers believe, might have been alive more recently than we thought:

An 18-square-mile chloride salt deposit is thought to have once been a lake bed with water that had only 8 percent the salinity of earth’s oceans, and may have been home to life. The dried up pond — “one of the last instances of a sizable lake on Mars,” according to the study’s lead researcher — was digitally mapped by a team from CU’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, along with researchers from two other universities. The study was published earlier this month in the journal Geology.

The salt deposits share some similarities with Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, according to the release from CU. An advantage of such deposits is that the salt can contain fossilized microbial life.

“It can capture a lot of the organic material,” [Brian] Hynek said. “It’s a good place to look.”