Friday, August 20, 2010

Mars, Mud Volcanoes, and the Search for Life

"Mud Volcanoes May Help Search for Life on Mars " (August 19, 2010)

"If life does — or ever did — exist on Mars, signs of such life might well be found in a region in the northern plains called Acidalia Planitia, according to a new study.

"The region appears to be dotted with what scientists believe are geological structures known as mud volcanoes, spewing out muddy sediments from underground. These sediments might contain organic materials that could be biosignatures of possible past and present life.

" 'If there was life on Mars, it probably developed in a fluid-rich environment,' said lead author Dorothy Oehler, a research scientist at the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate at NASA's Johnson Space Center. 'Mud volcanoes themselves are an indicator of a fluid-rich subsurface, and they bring up material from relatively deep parts of the subsurface that we might not have a chance to see otherwise.'..."

Mud volcanoes are fairly common on Earth: the article shows a photo of one in America's Yellowstone National Park. They're also associated with petroleum deposits.

On Mars? Well, we don't know what will be found. Yet. But if good evidence for mud volcanoes shows up in orbital surveys, my guess is that the site will be on wish lists for an upcoming lander.
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