Study of clays suggests watery Mars underground

November 2, 2011 by Guy Webster, JPL/NASA
Impact cratering and erosion combine to reveal the composition of the Martian underground by exposing materials from the subsurface. Investigation of exposed clay minerals at thousands of Martian sites by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter suggests a long period of wet, warm conditions, mostly underground. Infrared light indicates terrains of different composition in false-color infrared images (top) of a crater (left) and an escarpment (right). Each of the scenes is about 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide. The lower images of the same sites show how distinctive absorption bands permit identification and mapping of specific minerals. In the lower images, iron-magnesium clays are mapped in blue. These are the most common clays on Mars, occupying large sections of the deep crust and mostly formed by subsurface water. These clays are beneath unaltered volcanic layers that contain the mineral olivine (green). The site shown in the image on the right also contains aluminum clays (red), which formed by waters near the surface. These clays are uncommon on Mars but are sometimes located on top of iron-magnesium clays in a distinctive stratigraphy, indicating formation later in time. These two example sites, out of thousands where CRISM has observed clay minerals, are at 10.65 degrees south latitude, 98.22 degrees east longitude (left pair) and 22.06 degrees north latitude, 74.63 degrees east latitude (right pair). In the top two images, the false color comes from presenting observed brightnesses in three different wavelengths of invisible infrared wavelengths -- 2,529 nanometers, 1,506 nanometers and 1,080 nanometers -- as red, green and blue, respectively, composited into color images. In the bottom two images, colors are assigned to absorption-band characteristics: infrared frequencies at which the materials on the Mars surface are less bright compared to their brightness at other frequencies. The data presented as red are pixel-by-pixel absorption-band depths at 2,210 nanometers, the data presented as green are broad absorption-band depths near 1,000 nanometers, and the data presented as blue are the absorption-band depths at 2,300 nanometers. These color data were then overlain and merged with the brightness at 770 nanometers to show the relationship of detected minerals with underlying topography.Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL

( -- A new NASA study suggests if life ever existed on Mars, the longest lasting habitats were most likely below the Red Planet's surface.

A new interpretation of years of mineral-mapping data, from more than 350 sites on Mars examined by European and NASA orbiters, suggests Martian environments with abundant liquid water on the surface existed only during short episodes. These episodes occurred toward the end of a period of hundreds of millions of years during which warm water interacted with subsurface rocks. This has implications about whether life existed on Mars and how the has changed.

"The types of clay minerals that formed in the shallow subsurface are all over Mars," said John Mustard, professor at Brown University in Providence, R.I. Mustard is a co-author of the study in the journal Nature. "The types that formed on the surface are found at very limited locations and are quite rare."

Discovery of clay minerals on Mars in 2005 indicated the planet once hosted warm, wet conditions. If those conditions existed on the surface for a long era, the planet would have needed a much thicker atmosphere than it has now to keep the water from evaporating or freezing. Researchers have sought evidence of processes that could cause a thick atmosphere to be lost over time.

This new study supports an alternative hypothesis that persistent was confined to the subsurface and many erosional features were carved during brief periods when was stable at the surface.

"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 the report's lead author, Bethany Ehlmann, assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, and scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, also in Pasadena. "The most stable Mars habitats over long durations appear to have been in the subsurface. On Earth, underground geothermal environments have active ecosystems."

The discovery of clay minerals by the OMEGA spectrometer on the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter added to earlier evidence of liquid Martian water. Clays form from the interaction of water with rock. Different types of clay minerals result from different types of .

During the past five years, researchers used OMEGA and NASA's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer, or CRISM, instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to identify clay minerals at thousands of locations on Mars. that form where the ratio of water interacting with rock is small generally retain the same chemical elements as those found in the original volcanic rocks later altered by the water.

The study interprets this to be the case for most terrains on Mars with iron and magnesium clays. In contrast, surface environments with higher ratios of water to rock can alter rocks further. Soluble elements are carried off by , and different aluminum-rich clays form.

Another clue is detection of a mineral called prehnite. It forms at temperatures above about 400 degrees Fahrenheit (about 200 degrees Celsius). These temperatures are typical of underground hydrothermal environments rather than surface waters.

"Our interpretation is a shift from thinking that the warm, wet environment was mostly at the surface to thinking it was mostly in the subsurface, with limited exceptions," said Scott Murchie of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., a co-author of the report and principal investigator for CRISM.

One of the exceptions may be Gale Crater, the site targeted by NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission. Launching this year, the mission’s Curiosity rover will land and investigate layers that contain clay and sulfate minerals.

NASA's 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. The report predicts MAVEN findings consistent with the atmosphere not having been thick enough to provide warm, wet surface conditions for a prolonged period.

Explore further: New Clues Suggest Wet Era on Early Mars Was Global (w/ Video)

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4.5 / 5 (16) Nov 02, 2011
Yeah boi! You tell those NASA scientists what's up! Obviously they have no clue about geology or biology. /sarcasm
4.3 / 5 (18) Nov 02, 2011
This website URL below displays an area of Mars where a liquid is flowing and spurting out of a hillside. Please notice the darker areas where the ground material is wet, as opposed to the lighter areas that are dry. Also, in some of the pictures, the liquid is flowing as in a creek and spurts out in "drops" through what appears to be an embankment. This is geology.

Further down on the same page are pictures providing proof of large life forms that are semi-transparent. Those are NOT geology and are not a trick of light and shadow. Mars has life.

You're a fucking lunatic.
4.3 / 5 (11) Nov 02, 2011
You're a fucking lunatic
Shouldn'that be Martiatic?
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 02, 2011
"The photos are derived from those sent back to Earth from Mars orbiters and Rovers. I will also post pictures of my tabbies and whatever things of interest I can capture with my digital camera. NOTE: Some comments by viewers may contain objectionable wording. I will delete such comments whenever I find them."

From the blogger mentioned above. Talk about a credible source.
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 02, 2011
I wonder how big that "helmeted being" is? 10-15km tall? HA! That person really is insane.
3.8 / 5 (10) Nov 02, 2011
Definition of ANTHROPOCENTRIC from Wikepedia:
Good, now look up the definitions of "anthropomorphic", and "pareidolia".

Then go look in the mirror.
3.9 / 5 (11) Nov 02, 2011
Are you trying to say that it is impossible to have present life on Mars
No, I'm saying that you're seeing the equivalent of shapes in clouds. And human-like shapes, at that.

You're engaging in anthropomorphic pareidolia. (You did look up the definitions, yes?)
4.5 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2011
I would be happy to find bacteria or some such on Mars that used DNA with other bases than our own, or some other structures that duplicated the function of DNA. Anything marking it as totally alien so some pathoskeptik could not publicly poke holes in it out of an insane desire to uphold some increasingly untenable dogma. It would be enough and the implications would be huge. For one thing, biological defense strategies would have to be rethought lest we bring a plague back to us. Hey the bugs survived...MARS...or EUROPA...whatever. Earth will be a bacchanalian feast! So humoring pathoskeptics to curry favor with republican beancounters would be like whistling in a graveyard.
1 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2011
There are no liquids, they overlay different spectra over each other and use Photoshop to boost colors. These aren't live images.
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2011
Pink Elephant says:
""No, I'm saying that you're seeing the equivalent of shapes in clouds. And human-like shapes, at that.""

Look at the picture. There are NO clouds, just a mountain or vertical hillside with a grotto within a big crater. Sad that you and others here are unable to see the figures in the pictures. I guess you also don't see the liquid in the first set of pictures either.

I woud say you are deliberatly misunderstanding what pink is saying as pink never said there were clouds just that you were looking at geological shapes and forming immages that are part of your directed (by the blog author) immagination. I myself looked at those heaverly edited images and could easilly see these things the blog author was talking about such as the pipelines and giant beings with headdresses but to me they looked more like geological formations.
5 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2011
My take on life living on mars. There is almost certainly nothing large on the surface only microbes. Below the surface in underground rivers there may be larger life forms such as fish or worms. There is already very good evidence that water exists and flows to this day on mars during the summer. Remember the equator of the planet reaches roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer (during the day). And the life on mars? Most likely it shares a common ancestor with life here. My guess is that microbes on one planet went for a ride on a rock to the other planet. We will probably find it is DNA based life. In fact, I Would wager any life in the solar system is the result of microbial hitchhikers from earth (especially given how diverse life is here).
Water on mars
3.7 / 5 (6) Nov 03, 2011
BTW, absolutely NONE of the pictures in the website have been photoshopped or altered in any way

Your comment is incorrect[1]

1. "false-color infrared images" [line 11-12]
1 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2011
4.2 / 5 (5) Nov 03, 2011
Is there an evolutionary psychological explanation or established term/phrase that describes the motivation to latch onto a hypothesis, connect your identity to that hypothesis, then ignore/devalue/overlook contradictory evidence? I'm more looking for why people tie themselves emotionally to ideas that will not directly help their survival or social standing. After they do that, I think I understand why they ignore contradictory evidence. Wait... I think I got standing.

Piro, do you ever feel a rush of positive emotions when people give your hypothesis attention, whether their reaction is positive or negative?

I don't mean to be dismissive of something you are clearly passionate about. I just want to understand where you are coming from in more detail so I can converse with you more efficiently.
4.1 / 5 (9) Nov 03, 2011
You interpreting tall, helmeted, robed, transparent beings sitting on a hillside out of blurry, non-descript photos of martian soil is not evidence, it's lunacy. There is absolutely nothing in those photos.
4.2 / 5 (5) Nov 03, 2011
I would love to find life on Mars. So, there's another reason for me to lean towards you being biased; you make incorrect assumptions; my guess is in order to ease your mind in the presence of perceived attacks on your pet theory. How damaging to your confidence would it be for you to know that a credible skeptic doesn't believe anything you say on this topic?

The contradictory evidence has already been provided. It's the evidence that shows the prevalence and survival advantage of self-deception. Look at it from my perspective: what's more likely? Some grand conspiracy involving humanoid Martians, or your own emotional bias? Unless you address the possibility of your own self bias, you won't make any progress convincing skeptics. The fact that you don't show that you understand this possibility makes it that much more likely that you are merely seeing what you want to see. Self deception doesn't work as well once you are past the denial phase.
5 / 5 (4) Nov 03, 2011
BTW, absolutely NONE of the pictures in the website have been photoshopped or altered in any way except to darken them just a bit and to zoom in as close as possible without enlarging pixels too much.

Nope, the images of the "humanoids" have been colored by me so that certain features of the images are more readily observed. A tiny bit of sharpening also. I used different shades of transparent coloring from a cheap editing software so that the original greys, blacks and whites could be enhanced by color.

So you state that the pictures weren't altered in any way, then go on to explain how exactly you altered them...clever girl.
5 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2011
Pirouette, do you have other photos of the same region from other passes that show either no humonlids or these same humanoids in different locations? The NASA page I linked showed several photos that seem to depict themovementof liquid. You will need a great deal more evidence before coming anywhere near proving something so earthshaking (Mars shaking?) as not just extraterrestrial life, not just intelligent extraterrestrial life, but inteeligent extraterrestrial life on the next planet out and the only one within the habitable region. The claim is so exceptional, we will need a hell of a lot more evidence than the photos you have on your site. I would love for it to be true and I do believe microbial life is probably on Mars. For animals the size your talking about to exist, there will have to be a massive and diverse ecosystem in the caves. Surely such an ecosystem would make it's presence known from the surface.
1 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2011
social standing.

More like social acceptance and social pressure etc.


I think religion is so successful because of this very fact. (Plus childhood brainwashing).
5 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2011
Pirouette, you think the discovery of large life forms on Mars would reduce funding. There is already discussion of cutting the NASA budget (along with most other government spending). It seems to me that NASA would love to provide evidence of life on Mars. Since it would result in support for increased funding from all political parties (at the cost of other government agencies).
5 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2011
pirouette, I would like to avoid political discussions as much as possible but you need to read up on the James Webb telescope funding. It is going to replace Hubble which will soon be retired. The James Webb went over budget as many NASA projects do. Despite the budget issues, the work on it is almost complete and the house appropriations committee (Republicans) was going to kill it. Obviously Hubble is hugely popular and probably the best known telescope by the general public. So rather than take heat from voters for killing the Webb (and leaving the US with no space telescope), they are funding it by taking away funds from the NASA budget which means other science won't be funded. Honestly, there is no value placed on anything in the government right now. They didn't save the Webb because of its scientific value but because they didn't want to answer to voters. Don't believe me? Look it up. Google James Webb funding.
5 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2011
About the only funding that's secure is directly related to the military. For example, the National ignition Facility (NIF) is funded despite majorly going over budget because it's chief goal is nuclear weapons research and science advancement is a nice plus on the side. Don't get me wrong, I'll take whatever research we can get but I'm trying to explain that you are incorrect in assuming the Dems want to kill budgets. The Republicans gained a house majority with tea party support which they (naively?) assume means all ares other than military should be cut. Individuals have different beliefs on each issue but I get the feeling this isn't played out that way right now. If the value of science were better explained to the general public we wouldn't have to worry about the possibility that we may not have a space telescope or that the shuttle won't be replaced. I fear it will take china landing on the moon and us with no space program to get the public to care.
not rated yet Nov 04, 2011
@Skulltch. .
It is evident that your penchant for...blah blah....(not answering any questions)

So, multiple people don't see what you see, we've shown you a plausible reason for the disagreement, and you aren't willing to even look into possible issues with your methodology. So, why again are you talking about this on a **science** discussion site? If this was actual science we were engaged in here, you would be essentially ignoring the results of peer review. If we are going to continue this discussion, can you start by addressing these points? If not, this isn't a discussion, it isn't anything close to science, and I really don't understand what motivates you to behave this way.
5 / 5 (3) Nov 04, 2011
Is there an evolutionary psychological explanation or established term/phrase that describes the motivation to latch onto a hypothesis, connect your identity to that hypothesis, then ignore/devalue/overlook contradictory evidence?
Look up "confirmation bias."
not rated yet Nov 05, 2011
Is there an evolutionary psychological explanation or established term/phrase that describes the motivation to latch onto a hypothesis, connect your identity to that hypothesis, then ignore/devalue/overlook contradictory evidence?
Look up "confirmation bias."

Yeah, I know about that. I was more looking for something that speaks to the negative reaction to conflicting evidence as opposed to the positive reaction to reinforcing evidence. Does conf bias usually refer to both?

Edit: nevermind. wiki says it does. I guess it's really a very similar mechanism of the brain that produces both reactions.

Anyway, Piro, you aren't a fucking lunatic. Just a normal human that has a lot of skin in this game and is understandably resistant to throwing it all away just because of a lack of self objectivity.
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 05, 2011
... and having sex on the sidewalks.

That's what I thought was happening in the cave entrance. It looks like the male is .. oh .. the tricks our eyes and mind can play.
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 05, 2011
Beach sand can get into places that it should not but I guess preferable to corrosive sticky Martian clay. Having a shower or bath on Mars might be problematic.

The idea of semi-transparent creatures is new in this context to me and I quite like the idea. Certainly might be a justifiable evolutionary adaptation given the Martian environment.

An interesting start to the day, thanks Pirouette.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 05, 2011
typicalguy: China may well be looking past the moon - to Mars. If they beat us there, then watch the political sh** hit the fan.
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 07, 2011
Pirouette/Jeanie :

You are truly pathetic. Truly self-deluded to write the following --

"Also, I have coined the term "Bobbles" to indicate the "people" on Mars that have giant heads and little bodies for lack of a more scientific name. They remind me of bobble-head dolls or, better yet, the new M & M candy commercials on TV that have legs, heads/faces, but without a body. Some are cute, some horrid looking and many have animal faces but seem to walk on 2 legs. They are in many places in the Mars photos and can be found in caves, alcoves, overhangs and sometimes even in pits as well as out in the open. They are probably quite friendly in spite of their large size and appearance!! Someday, mankind will discover the truth. Hopefully, the truth will not be suppressed by governments."
3 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2011
Vienna, on the second page of that blog she accuses the operators of the the Rock Abrasion Tool of intentionally killing an alien life form inside of a rock:

"It also appears that at least one of the tools on the Spirit's arm has cut open the little pie-shaped creature that is within the porthole-like round object on the rock. The creature has a face with 2 eyes, a possible nose and a mouth. It is apparently dead. It is hard to say whether or not the cutting open of the creature can be counted as murder of an alien since it is the Mars Rover that is the alien and not the creature who is on its home planet. It is most likely a case of accidental death since how could the Rover know that it was cutting into a living Being who was on its own planet. The Rover has to be held blameless."

not rated yet Nov 07, 2011

"But, at the same time, the scientists who guided the Rover's actions had to have seen the Being and should have stopped the killing at once before the Being could be hurt. Unfortunately, the creature appears to have died in the porthole. I consider it a very bad start for Mars exploration and a terrible shame and waste of a life."

Yeah, that's seriously out there. This not counting the delay time and preprogrammed nature of instructions sent to the Spirit rover, as if they could spot this "alien" and immediately halt the RAT tool!. Yet this blog purports to show the dead alien "creature's 2 eyes, nose and downturned mouth" in several images taken by Spirit.

So this is the incontrovertible proof that we have killed a "Martian" in his rocky porthole!. How many more "Martians" have perished at the hands of the RAT?

Gimme a break, Pirouette.
1 / 5 (1) Nov 07, 2011
We already are aware that our Mars pictures will never be vindicated until our astronauts land on Mars and explore the planet. That is the only way to know the truth.

What makes you think 'they' can't get to the astronauts, too? Or do you mean *your* astronauts?
5 / 5 (2) Nov 07, 2011
"We already are aware that our Mars pictures will never be vindicated until our astronauts land on Mars and explore the planet. That is the only way to know the truth."

So you discount the thousands of hi-res high quality images and radar altimetry gathered by the European Mars Express probe and other robotic Mars probes that have preceded it? And what of the thousands of planetary scientists of *all* nations that have scrutinized the voluminous imagery these orbiting and land-bound probes have returned over the past decades? Are they all involved in some vast conspiracy/cover-up?

Additionally, do you really believe the discovery of life on a body other than the Earth would result in a decrease in funds allocated to study such life? This would be the greatest discovery in the history of science. Your CT views just do not make any sense, except to you and other like-minded individuals.

PE nailed it above. You, sir, suffer from OBVIOUS confirmation bias.
5 / 5 (2) Nov 08, 2011
Conversing with this Piro person is an interesting case study to me. Whatever his/her responses are, they enlighten me to how the functionally irrational think. Dealing with them, and in a similar way, understanding my own innate irrationality, is probably the greatest challenge of my life. We are all irrational until we use our ability to introspect, learn our limitations/tendencies, then transcend them. Somewhat counter-intuitively, respect and understanding of the advantages of our relatively quick emotional intelligence is a crucial first step towards this goal and understanding ourselves in order to better ourselves.
not rated yet Nov 08, 2011
I'm only trying to understand why the two of us come to different conclusions of the same evidence. I thought it was clear that I was speculating. Of course I think you're irrational; we all are. The alternative would be my own error. I have considered the possibility that I am wrong, again, and I still think that is unlikely. So, what would you have me do? Increase doubt in everything I think I know so I can incorporate your humanoid martian theory? Would you do that in my position?

It's very telling how the mere suggestion that you aren't thinking clearly elicits such a negative emotional response.

See, people affect my life, so I study people. Do martians affect your life?
5 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2011
Skultch. . . .you are a lost "soul" trying to make sense of the world and your own perceptions of it.
There's nothing wrong with that. Welcome to reality. There are a lot of things about reality that are difficult to accept for some.

I really don't think I have any difficulty 'accepting' your hypothesis about humanoid martians. Knowledge of that would be the most exciting and cool thing to ever happen in my lifetime.

No, the problem we have here right now is that you don't understand the mind of a skeptic, no matter the issue, apparently. I also think /you/ have a difficulty accepting your own human limitations of observation and cognition.

Isn't it interesting how much we unknowingly (at the time) project our own problems onto others? I know I do it all the time.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2011
You have yet to acknowledge that the same possibilities exist within you that you claim exist in me. I guess I shouldn't expect anything different. I mean, you really think that you see translucent humanoids in those pictures. I don't know what else to say that could get through to you, other than, I have a lot more people (independent verification) on my side than you do. Are we all as delusional as you think I am?
5 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2011

Sorry, I have no desire to converse with a conspiracicy theorist with an anthropomorphic pareidolia and a severve case of conformation bias.[Enough CT people posting already].

Best wishes to you and your semi-transparent Bobble creatures. My condolences to the alien killed by Spirit's Rock Abrasion Tool. I'm sure he will be missed (by you and all sentient Bobbles). :^)
not rated yet Nov 08, 2011

One can only wonder how much "hidden" life Pirouette has found on the multitude of images of other imaged bodies in the Solar System (Hyperion, Umbriel, Mercury, Triton, Vesta, Itokawa, Halley, etc.) LOL
not rated yet Nov 08, 2011
Your first post receive 16 one votes out of 16. 16 different people don't see what you think you see. Why don't you react introspectively to that? Are all 16 as irrational as you think I am? What is the probability of that?

Who is your "professional" and when was his/her last eye exam and/or psych eval?

The pics are evidence to you, but not to me (us), therefore *I* (we) don't consider it a theory yet. I choose my words carefully and I know what they mean. I didn't ask for your help. If you are not going to answer my questions, then this isn't really a discussion, is it? If you don't like or want my investigating, fine, we can end this any time you like. Just LMK, and I'll stop psychoanalyzing you. If you won't participate in that, then I have no other purpose in this thread.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2011

One can only wonder how much "hidden" life Pirouette has found on the multitude of images of other imaged bodies in the Solar System (Hyperion, Umbriel, Mercury, Triton, Vesta, Itokawa, Halley, etc.) LOL

One day while on mushrooms I kept seeing faces in canyon walls and clouds. Pretty cool, but temporary. Knowing a schizophrenic that is past his denial stage (usually takes years of therapy) has made me appreciate the ability to induce hallucinations and simultaneously know that they are hallucinations. Not having control of them or being able to identify what they really are is incredibly scary, stressful, and depressing. To date, it is the tragedy of our lives. This is what motivates me to understand normal and abnormal psychology.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2011

I can relate with what you say (both re the hallucinogens and knowing a long-time aquaintence diagnosed with schizophrenia, undifferentiated. Both gave me new ways to interpret how I perceive and interact with others. I appreciate your thoughtful replies to Pirouette here, as he genuinely appears sincere...though misguided.

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