Ancient Hot Springs Spotted on Mars

This volcanic cone in the Nili Patera caldera on Mars has hydrothermal mineral deposits on the southern flanks and nearby terrains. Two of the largest deposits are marked by arrows, and the entire field of light-toned material on the left of the cone is hydrothermal deposits. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/JHU-APL/Brown Univ.

Evidence of a past “hot spring” environment on Mars has shown up in images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Scientists say light-colored mounds of hydrated silica on the side of a volcano are likely deposits from steam fumaroles, or hot springs, which may have provided a habitable environment on the Red Planet about three billion years ago. Concentrations of hydrated silica have been identified on Mars previously, including an ancient hot springs environment that the Spirit rover stumbled across in 2007.

“The heat and water required to create this deposit probably made this a habitable zone,” said J.R. Skok from Brown University, lead author of a paper about these findings published online today by Nature Geoscience. “If life did exist there, this would be a promising type of deposit to entomb evidence of it — a microbial mortuary.” (…) Read the rest of Ancient Hot Springs Spotted on Mars (380 words)

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