Feeds

Haven for life found in Mars' Syrtis Major region

Boffins peer at Hesperian 'warm, wet spots'

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Boffins sifting data from a survey craft in orbit above Mars say they have found evidence of "warm, wet spots" which would have been refuges for Martian life as the red planet changed from a hospitable world to a freezing desert billions of years ago.

Silica deposits on a volcano in the Syrtis Major region of Mars. Credit: J R Skok/Brown University

The joint was jumping back in the Hesperian era.

The evidence comes in the form of an especially promising deposit of hydrated silica, spotted on the flank of a volcano located in a caldera named Nili Patera, one of the landmarks of the Syrtis Major region.

J R Skok, grad student at Brown uni in Rhode Island, believes that the hydrated deposit was left by warm waters "during the early Hesperian period", when Mars was turning cold and arid between 3 and 4 billion years back.

“The heat and water required to create this deposit probably made this a habitable zone,” contends Skok. “If life did exist there, this would be a promising spot where it would have been entombed — a microbial mortuary, so to speak... Mars is [then] just drying out, and this is one last hospitable spot in a cooling, drying Mars.”

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, sweeping past high above, initially detected the silica deposits using its cameras. Skok and his colleagues then probed the volcanic cone further using readings from the spacecraft's CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars) instrument.

“We can read a series of chapters in this history book and know that the cone grew from the last gasp of a giant volcanic system,” says John “Jack” Mustard, geological sciences prof. “The cooling and solidification of most of the magma concentrated its silica and water content.”

According to a statement issued by Brown uni:

Silica can be dissolved, transported and concentrated by hot water or steam. Hydrated silica identified by the spectrometer in uphill locations — confirmed by stereo imaging — indicates that hot springs or fumaroles fed by underground heating created these deposits. Silica deposits around hydrothermal vents in Iceland are among the best parallels on Earth.

“The habitable zone would have been within and alongside the conduits carrying the heated water,” argues Scott Murchie of Johns Hopkins uni, who also worked on the research.

The scientists' paper can be read here by subscribers to Nature Geoscience. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.