Hot springs on Mars may have nourished life

November 4th, 2011 - 6:00 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 4 (IANS) Warm water mingled with rocks under the Martian surface for eons and may have been the likeliest places where life flourished on the Red Planet.

“If surface habitats were short-term, that doesn’t mean we should be glum about prospects for life on Mars - but it says something about what type of environment we might want to look in,” said Bethany Ehlmann, NASA scientist at Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena.

“The most stable Mars habitats over long durations appear to have been in the subsurface,” adds Ehlmann. Scientists point out that similar hot springs on earth host life, reports the journal Nature.

“The types of clay minerals that formed in the shallow subsurface are all over Mars,” said John Mustard, professor at Brown University in Providence, US, according to the Daily Mail.

Differences in the mineral composition of clays on Mars let scientists see clearly which clays were formed on the surface, and which below.

One of the warmest, wettest - and most habitable - of the areas with surface clay is next on the list for Man to visit, in the form of the car-sized Curiosity rover.

Launching this year, the Curiosity rover will land and investigate layers that contain clay and sulphate minerals.

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission, or MAVEN, in development for a 2013 launch, may provide evidence for or against this new interpretation of the Red Planet’s environmental history.

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