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Lassen National Park

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HELL ON EARTH: Bumpass Hell is a hydrothermal (hot water) area in California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park. Groundwater heated by hot magma below the surface forms steam that vents through fumaroles, condenses to form boiling springs, and decomposes the surrounding volcanic rock to create bubbling mud pots. The beautiful, pastel palette of colors arises from the complex mineralogy, as well as microorganisms that have adapted to the harsh, elevated water temperatures and acidity. NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover “Spirit” has found minerals on Mars indicating that a hydrothermal environment like Bumpass Hell once existed there. The more astrobiologists learn about Bumpass Hell, the better prepared they are to search for evidence of life in environments like it on other worlds. Image Credit: Sandy Dueck
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