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Martian Crater Once May Have Held Groundwater-Fed Lake

"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 findings.

"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."

McLaughlin Crater sits at the low end of a regional slope several hundreds of miles long on the western side of the Arabia Terra region of Mars. As on Earth, groundwater-fed lakes are expected to occur at low regional elevations. Therefore, this site would be a good candidate for such a process.

"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," said MRO project scientist Rich Zurek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., provided and operates CRISM. JPL manages MRO for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the orbiter.

To see an image of the carbonate-bearing layers in McLaughlin Crater, visit: 

http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16710

For more about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, visit:

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