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US scientists find evidence of ancient Martian lake

Published on Jan 21, 2013 6:11 AM
This view of layered rocks on the floor of McLaughlin Crater on Mars shows sedimentary rocks that contain spectroscopic evidence for minerals formed through interaction with water in this undated handout photo from NASA. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A United States spacecraft orbiting Mars has provided evidence of an ancient crater lake fed by groundwater, adding further support to theories that the Red Planet may once have hosted life, Nasa said on Sunday.

Spectrometer data from Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows traces of carbonate and clay minerals usually formed in the presence of water at the bottom of the 2.2km deep McLaughlin Crater.

"These new observations suggest the formation of the carbonates and clay in a groundwater-fed lake within the closed basin of the crater," Nasa said of the findings, which were published in the online edition of Nature Geoscience.

"Some researchers propose the crater interior catching the water," the space agency said, adding that "the underground zone contributing the water could have been wet environments and potential habitats."

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