Martian Crater found to have groundwater activity in the past

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has found evidences of flowing lake in the McLaughlin Crater’s past.

This research has been published online in the journal Nature GeoScience.

McLaughlin crater, one of the deepest craters on Mars, is 57 miles across and 1.4 miles deep with apparent rocks of carbonate and clay minerals at the bottom that usually form in the presence of water.

Clay-carbonate layers on Martian crater (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Scientists found the minerals using the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

Although large inflow channels are not present in the McLaughlin lacks but small channels are found originating within the crater wall end at a level that could represent the surface of a lake.

These new findings show the production of the carbonates and clay in a groundwater-fed lake within the closed basin of the crater. According to some of the researchers, interior of the crater that catches the water and the underground zone that contributes to the water could have been wet environments and potential habitats.

“Taken together, the observations in McLaughlin Crater provide the best evidence for carbonate forming within a lake environment instead of being washed into a crater from outside,” Joseph Michalski, lead author of the paper, which has five co-authors, said in a statement. Michalski also is affiliated with the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., and London’s Natural History Museum.

“This new report and others are continuing to reveal a more complex Mars than previously appreciated, with at least some areas more likely to reveal signs of ancient life than others,” says MRO project scientist Rich Zurek.

Reference:

Michalski, J., Cuadros, J., Niles, P., Parnell, J., Deanne Rogers, A., & Wright, S. (2013). Groundwater activity on Mars and implications for a deep biosphere Nature Geoscience DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1706

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