Life on Mars and Salt Deposits

New clues about Life on Mars! NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter has found evidence of salt deposits on the planet. These deposits point to places where water once was abundant and where evidence might exist of possible Martian life from the Red Planet's past.

Image: The bright blue color marks a deposit of chloride (salt) minerals in the southern highlands of Mars.

A team led by Mikki Osterloo of the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, found approximately 200 places on southern Mars that show spectral characteristics consistent with chloride minerals. Chloride is part of many types of salt, such as sodium chloride or table salt. The sites range from about a square kilometer (0.4 square mile) to 25 times that size.

Scientists used Odyssey's Thermal Emission Imaging System, a camera designed and operated by Arizona State University, Tempe, to take images in a range of visible light and infrared wavelengths. Thermal infrared wavelengths are useful for identifying different mineral and rock types on the Martian surface.

"They could come from groundwater reaching the surface in low spots. The water would evaporate and leave mineral deposits, which build up over years. The sites are disconnected, so they are unlikely to be the remnants of a global ocean." - Osterloo said.

Scientists think the salt deposits formed approximately 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago. Several lines of evidence suggest Mars then had intermittent periods with substantially wetter and warmer conditions than today's dry, frigid climate.

So, evidence of these salt deposits has once again given some clues about presence of life on Mars. And scientists are happy with the results from a relatively low cost orbiter mission, which is now entering it's seventh year. They hopes that Mars Odyssey orbiter will continue to send more interesting results from planet Mars. NASA