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Researchers Take Temperature of Mars’s Past

October 12, 2011 2 comments

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have directly determined the surface temperature of early Mars for the first time, providing evidence that’s consistent with a warmer and wetter Martian past.

By analyzing carbonate minerals in a four-billion-year-old meteorite that originated near the surface of Mars, the scientists determined that the minerals formed at about 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit). “The thing that’s really cool is that 18 degrees is not particularly cold nor particularly hot,” says Woody Fischer, assistant professor of geobiology and coauthor of the paper, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on October 3. “It’s kind of a remarkable result.”

Knowing the temperature of Mars is crucial to understanding the planet’s history—its past climate and whether it once had liquid water. The Mars rovers and orbiting spacecraft have found ancient deltas, rivers, lakebeds, and mineral deposits, suggesting that water did indeed flow. Because Mars now has an average temperature of -63 degrees Celsius, the existence of liquid water in the past means that the climate was much warmer then. But what’s been lacking is data that directly points to such a history. “There are all these ideas that have been developed about a warmer, wetter early Mars,” Fischer says. “But there’s precious little data that actually bears on it.” That is, until now.

Full Story: http://news.caltech.edu/press_releases/13462

Rare Martian Lake Delta Spotted by Mars Express

September 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

ESA’s Mars Express has spotted a rare case of a crater once filled by a lake, revealed by the presence of a delta. The delta is an ancient fan-shaped deposit of dark sediments, laid down in water. It is a reminder of Mars’ past, wetter climate.

The delta is in the Eberswalde crater, in the southern highlands of Mars. The 65 km-diameter crater is visible as a semi-circle on the right of the image and was formed more than 3.7 billion years ago when an asteroid hit the planet.

 

 

 

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEMM71VTTRG_index_0.html

NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity Begins Study of Martian Crater

September 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The initial work of NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity at its new location on Mars shows surface compositional differences from anything the robot has studied in its first 7.5 years of exploration.

Opportunity arrived three weeks ago at the rim of a 14-mile-wide (22-kilometer-wide) crater named Endeavour. The first rock it examined is flat-topped and about the size of a footstool. It was apparently excavated by an impact that dug a crater the size of a tennis court into the crater’s rim. The rock was informally named “Tisdale 2.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-274

Search for Evidence of Life on Mars Heats Up

August 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Scientists are expressing confidence that questions about life on Mars, which have captured human imagination for centuries, finally may be answered, thanks in part to new life-detection tools up to 1,000 times more sensitive than previous instruments.

“The bottom line is that if life is out there, the high-tech tools of chemistry will find it sooner or later,” said Jeffrey Bada, Ph.D., co-organizer of a special two-day symposium on the Red Planet, which began here today during the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). “It certainly is starting to look like there may be something alive out there somewhere, with Mars being the most accessible place to search,” Bada added.

Full Story: http://portal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg/content?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PP_ARTICLEMAIN&node_id=222&content_id=CNBP_028102&use_sec=true&sec_url_var=region1&__uuid=d8e072c4-1aa2-4455-b597-e7079aeeb9c6

NASA Announces Media Teleconference About Opportunity Rover

August 30, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA will host a media teleconference on Thursday, Sept. 1, at 12:30 p.m. PDT to discuss progress of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. Opportunity reached the Martian Endeavour crater earlier this month after years of driving.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/aug/HQ-M11-181_Rover_Telecon.html

New Rover Snapshots Capture Endeavour Crater Vistas

August 21, 2011 Leave a comment

'Ridout' Rock on Rim of Odyssey Crater

'Ridout' Rock on Rim of Odyssey Crater. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has captured new images of intriguing Martian terrain from a small crater near the rim of the large Endeavour crater. The rover arrived at the 13-mile-diameter (21-kilometer-diameter) Endeavour on Aug. 9, after a journey of almost three years.

 

 

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-259

Martian Soil Oxidizing Properties Not Too Extreme for Life

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Ever since the NASA Viking mission, which reached Mars in 1976, there has been considerable interest in the composition of Martian soils. Some Viking measurements indirectly suggested that the soils contained highly oxidizing compounds, which could present extremely harsh conditions for life. Recent observations from the Phoenix Mars Mission pointed to evidence of perchlorate, a potentially highly oxidizing compound, in the Martian soils. However, some studies have noted that because perchlorate is highly stable, its presence in Martian soils cannot explain the Viking measurements. Quinn et al. (2011) present a new analysis of Mars soil samples using the Wet Chemistry Laboratory, a component of the Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer on the NASA Mars Phoenix Lander. They found that although low levels of oxidizing compounds may be present, the oxidation-reduction potential of the soil is moderate and well within the range expected for habitable soils.

 

More info: http://www.agu.org/cgi-bin/highlights/highlights.cgi?action=show&doi=10.1029/2011GL047671&jc=gl