Giant crater shows best evidence of possible life on Mars yet

NASA Mars rover Curiosity self-portrait. Image taken Oct. 31, Nov. 1, 2012. Courtesy: NASA.gov

NASA Mars rover Curiosity self-portrait. Image taken Oct. 31, Nov. 1, 2012. Courtesy: NASA.gov

New photos of a huge crater on Mars suggest water may lurk in crevices under the planet’s surface, hinting that life might have once lived there, and raising the possibility that it may live there still, researchers say.

Future research looking into the chances of life on Mars could shed light on the origins of life on Earth, scientists added.

The discovery came from a study of images by NASA’s powerful Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that revealed new evidence of a wet underground environment on the Red Planet. The images focused on the giant McLaughlin Crater, which is about 57 miles wide and so deep that underground water appears to have flowed into the crater at some point in the distant past.

Today, the crater is bone-dry but harbors clay minerals and other evidence that liquid water filled the area in the ancient past.

“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,” study lead author Joseph Michalski, of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., and London’s Natural History Museum, said in a statement.

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