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2001 Mars Odyssey
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SPOTLIGHT
04.15.2008

Like Martian Water for Chocolate

20080415_Ody.jpg

If you smacked a frozen chocolate bar on a table, it would break into bite-size pieces resembling the terrain in this Martian crater. To a planetary scientist, this pattern is a tantalizing clue that the ground once contained water ice. When the frozen terrain cracked, in some places the ice melted into flows chock full of sediment. Perhaps the ground is still filled with layers of near-surface ice.

This site is also like candy to scientists because it is rich in hematite, a mineral that usually forms in wet conditions over long periods of time. An unsolved mystery is whether life ever existed on Mars, and water is important to that. While no one knows, perhaps the liquid water in this area tempted the palate of any microbes that might have gained a foothold on the red planet.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

View the Hi Res image at the THEMIS site

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