From the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS):
A new set of high-resolution geologic maps reveal complex geologic processes that suggest a dynamic, wet environment once existed on early Mars, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
“The major finding of this work is that the layers of rock exposed within what is called western Candor Chasma record a past environment where groundwater was abundant and occasionally seeped onto the ground surface, forming pools,” said USGS scientist Dr. Chris Okubo, lead author of the maps. “These pools would have been habitable for life, just as they are on Earth. Dust and sand blown into these pools may have buried and preserved evidence of past Martian life, which would be present as fossils within the rocks that we see today.”
These maps show that the western Candor Chasma region is an important location for future human and robotic exploration of Mars’ astrobiologic resources. The areas analyzed are in the northern, central, and southern portions of the western Candor Chasma, which is one of the largest branches of the continent-sized Valles Marineris canyon system. The results of the USGS mapping effort reveal possible distributions of past habitable sites and areas that have the potential to accumulate markers of any organisms that might have lived in them.
“This provides very specific new targets for continued scientific investigation,” said Okubo.
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