Spacecraft Finds Evidence of Underground Fluids on Mars

Ridges on Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of ArizonaHere’s an interesting new result from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Scientists announced today that the spacecraft has turned up evidence that some kind of liquid or gas once flowed beneath the surface of Mars.

This is one of those rare situations where the most beautiful pictures returned from Mars also have some of the most interesting science. If you look at the attached picture to this story, you see the beautiful patterns of exposed layers in a canyon called Candor Chasma.

Geologist Chris Okubo from the University of Arizona, Tuscon explains what he noticed, and what you’re looking at:

“What caught my eye was the bleaching or lack of dark material along the fracture. That is a sign of mineral alteration by fluids that moved through those joints,” said Okubo. “It reminded me of something I had seen during field studies in Utah, that is light-tone zones, or ‘haloes,’ on either side of cracks through darker sandstone.”

At some point in the distant past, fluids moved through underground channels. Minerals in the fluid were deposited in layers over the course of millions of years. And then weathering from wind and sand eroded away the material, exposing the layered pattern.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s high resolution imaging made all the difference here – it’s capable of revealing details as small as one metre (3 feet). This allows scientists to spot details that go unseen with other spacecraft.

Original Source: NASA/JPL News Release