Vernal (crater)

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Vernal Crater
Springs in Vernal Crater.jpg
Springs in Vernal Crater, as seen by HIRISE.
Planet Mars
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Eponym Vernal, Utah, USA

Vernal Crater is a crater on Mars, located at 6° north latitude and 355.5° east longitude in the Oxia Palus quadrangle. It is 57 km in diameter and was named after Vernal, Utah, USA.[1][2] Because structures resembling springs on Earth were found there it is the scene of one of the most important discoveries on the quest of life on Mars.


A study of images taken with the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter strongly suggests that hot springs once existed in Vernal Crater, in the Oxia Palus quadrangle. These springs may have provided a long-time location for life. Furthermore, mineral deposits associated with these springs may have preserved traces of Martian life. In Vernal Crater, on a dark part of the floor two light-toned, elliptical structures closely resemble hot springs on the Earth. They have inner and outer halos, with roughly circular depressions. A large number of hills are lined up close to the springs. These are thought to have formed by the movement of fluids along the boundaries of dipping beds. A picture below shows these springs. One of the depressions is visible. The discovery of opaline silica by the Mars Rovers on the surface also suggests the presence of hot springs.[3] Scientists proposed this area as one to be visited by the Mars Science Laboratory.[4]


  2. Blue, Jennifer. "Vernal (crater)". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. USGS Astrogeology Research Program.
  3. Allen, C. and D. Oehler. 2008. A Case for Ancient Springs in Arabia Terra, Mars. Astrobiology. 8:1093-1112.

See also