Today's Image of Mars shows bright material on the floor of a trough in Noctis Labyrinthus, which lies on the far western edge of Hellas Basin, just east of the Tharsis Volcanoes. What is this bright material, and under what circumstances did it form?
Examination of this bright material by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's CRISM shows that the bright material contains water. The hydrated material likely formed when ground water welled up into low lying depressions or when ice within Noctis Labyrithus was melted by volcanic activity in the nearby Tharsis region.
One day we may send a rover or even a manned mission to this area to find out exactly where the water came from, and more importantly, where it disappeared to. Until that time, further analysis from orbiting camera like those aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will still provide valuable insight about the past and present climate on Mars. Maybe one day we will image something that will help us pinpoint the exact reason and time that water disappeared from the surface of Mars. For that answer, and many others, we will continue searching.
Clicking on this image will take you to the original high resolution image from HiRISE. [See their caption for this image]