MessageToEagle.com - NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) along with its six instruments, launched in 2005,
looked down on the floor of McLaughlin Crater and delivered new evidence of a wet underground environment on Mars.
The Martian crater is 57 miles (92 kilometers) in diameter and 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers) deep. McLaughlin's depth
apparently once allowed underground water, which otherwise would have stayed hidden, to flow into the crater's interior.
According to scientists, layered, flat rocks at the bottom of the crater contain carbonate and clay minerals that form
in the presence of water. McLaughlin lacks large inflow channels, and small channels originating within the crater wall
end near a level that could have marked the surface of a lake.
Click on image to enlarge
This view of layered rocks on the floor of McLaughlin Crater shows sedimentary rocks that contain
spectroscopic evidence for minerals formed through interaction with water. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
"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," said Joseph Michalski, lead author of the paper,
which has five co-authors.
Michalski also is affiliated with the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., and
London's Natural History Museum.
"The MRO team has made a concerted effort to get highly processed data products out to members of the science
community like Dr. Michalski for analysis," said CRISM Principal Investigator Scott Murchie of the Johns Hopkins
University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.
"New results like this show why that effort is so important."
Launched in 2005, MRO and its six instruments have provided more high-resolution data about the Red Planet than all
other Mars orbiters combined. Data is made available for scientists worldwide to research, analyze and report their
"A number of studies using CRISM data have shown rocks exhumed from the subsurface by meteor impact were altered
early in Martian history, most likely by hydrothermal fluids," Michalski said.
"These fluids trapped in the subsurface could have periodically breached the surface in deep basins such as McLaughlin Crater, possibly
carrying clues to subsurface habitability."
The findings are published in Sunday's online edition of Nature Geoscience.
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