Holden Crater: Where Water Ran
NASA's next Mars rover, the Mars Science Laboratory, is scheduled to launch in later 2011. One of the rover's goals is to see whether part of Mars ever had an environment favorable for supporting microbial life. Since we know water is necessary for life on Earth, scientists look at areas on Mars that show evidence of ancient water. Holden Crater, seen above, and the surrounding area contain two potential sites where the rover could study ancient water-flow deposits.
Holden's wide floor has abundant layered sediments, channels and large piles of debris at canyon mouths. These suggest a long history of deposits by water. False colors show the nature of the surface materials. In the image, areas with high abundances of rocks and hardened deposits show up in reddish tints. Areas covered with sand, loose dirt and fine dust appear in blue colors. Areas with a mixture of these extremes display yellows and greens.
The image was taken by the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), a multi-color camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU