Mud lakes on Mars may hide traces of life

The Martian region called Hydraotes Chaos was once a system of mud lakes. Now there are rich and easily accessible deposits in those places. Scientists believe that a small rover could easily find traces of organic matter or living organisms in these places.

Hydraotes Chaos, where once there were mud lakes. Source:

Mud lakes on Mars

The remains of an ancient mud lake have been found on Mars. This is stated in an article published in Scientific Reports. Its authors are researchers from NASA Ames Research Center, the University of Arizona, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Blue Marble Space Institute of Science and the University of Florida. 

We are talking about Hydraotes Chaos, a disordered pile of mismatched hills in the Northern Hemisphere of the red planet, almost next to the equator. This area has been known to scientists for some time as the location of numerous channels and systems of cascade lakes.

4 billion years ago, when Mars was warmer and wetter, they carried their waters from the southern uplands along the northern lowlands, where the ocean was then located. The water eroded the rocks and formed sedimentary rocks. Most of them are now located in the northern regions.

What is interesting about mud

A new study showed that there was not just a reservoir in the Hydraotes Chaos at that time but a mud lake, or, rather, a system of lakes in which mud was regularly deposited. Moreover, unlike the northern plains, where small particles mixed together were formed as a result of local erosion and were brought from afar, all the mud in the newly discovered lake was “local”.

Scientists established that directly under the Hydraotes Chaos in the Amazonian epoch, 4 billion years ago, there was an exit of an underground aquifer, so no particles got into it from outside this area. But under the surface, there were huge caves, obviously associated with volcanic activity. And organic molecules could form inside them, which were then brought to the surface and remained in the sediments.

NASA Ames Research Center is considering the plains as a possible landing site for a mission to search for evidence of biomarkers, in particular lipids. These biomolecules are extremely stable and could persist for billions of years on Mars. A small rover could ride there on the surface and collect samples where there were once mud lakes.

In addition, studies showed that there were a lot of mud volcanoes in this region. And some evidence indicates that they remained active until about 1 billion years ago. As traditionally believed, this is significantly less than the time when liquid water existed on Mars for the last time.

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