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(Astronomy) Mars: The Rovers That Just Won't Stop
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adedios
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2007 8:13 am    Post subject: Mars: Wet or Not? Reply with quote

Mars: Wet or Not?
Emily Sohn

Sept. 26, 2007

Does Mars have liquid water on it or not? That question has been a hot topic for a long time, with evidence accumulating on both sides.
The newest analysis has come out mostly negative. Based on the sharpest images ever taken of the Red Planet from an orbiting satellite, it appears that water did once flow on Mars. Today, however, chances of finding running water there look slim.

For the full article:

http://www.sciencenewsforkids....../Note2.asp
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adedios
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2007 1:55 pm    Post subject: Mars With Ice, Shaken, Not Stirred Reply with quote

Mars With Ice, Shaken, Not Stirred
25 October 2007
Geological Society of America

Boulder, CO, USA - Mars, like Earth, is a climate-fickle water planet. The main difference, of course, is that water on the frigid Red Planet is rarely liquid, preferring to spend almost all of its time traveling the world as a gas or churning up the surface as ice. That's the global picture literally and figuratively coming into much sharper focus as various Mars-orbiting cameras send back tomes of unprecedented super high-resolution imagery of ever vaster tracts of the planet's surface.

What were just a few years ago small hints about Mars' water and climate, as seen in a few "postage-stamp" high-resolution images and topography, have given way to broader theory that explains not only the features seen on the planet today, but imply a dynamic history of Martian climate change.

"When you have postage stamps, it's like studying a hair on an arm instead of the whole arm," said Mars researcher James Head III of Brown University. Head will present the latest integrated global view of Martian surface features and how they fit with Martian climate models on Sunday, 28 October 2007, at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Denver.

The pictures now reveal a range of ice-made features that show a strong preference to certain latitudes, Head explains. As on Earth, latitude-dependent features can mean only one thing: latitude-dependent climate.

The signs of water ice are obvious today at Mars' poles. But as you move towards the equator, there is plenty of evidence of water ice having shaped the surface in different ways not so long ago.

Not far from either pole, for instance, widespread bumpy polygonal patterned ground suggests the contraction and expansion of icy permafrost ground — very similar to that seen in Earth's Arctic and Antarctic. Next, between 30 and 60 degrees latitude in both hemispheres, the patterned ground gives way to a pervasive pitted texture of once ice-rich dust deposits. Even closer to the equator on the flanks of Mars' equatorial volcanoes are compelling signs of large glaciers, almost exactly like those of Earth. There are also craters which seem to be filled with glacial debris and small valleys which drop precipitously into canyons — which on Earth is usually a strong indicator that a glacier once filled and widened the canyon.

As for where all the ice went, much of it was sublimed away and deposited at the poles. The ice rules the more temperate latitudes only when the tilt of Mars' spin axis is far more extreme than today — up to 45 degrees. That tilt, or obliquity, exposed the poles to a lot more sun during the course of a Martian year, according to climate models, evaporating the ice caps. That same water refroze on the surface in the then darker and colder equatorial and middle latitudes, hence all the evidence of ice and glaciers.

"It's a quest to understand the Martian water cycle," said Head describing his work.

Among the instruments used to study Mars are the Mars Global Surveyor's Laser Altimeter (MOLA) and Camera (MOC), the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's Context Camera (CTX) and High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), and the Mars Express's High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC).
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2007 1:43 pm    Post subject: Mars Express probes the Red Planet’s most unusual deposits Reply with quote

Mars Express probes the Red Planet’s most unusual deposits
ESA

1 November 2007

The radar system on ESA’s Mars Express has uncovered new details about some of the most mysterious deposits on Mars: The Medusae Fossae Formation. It has given the first direct measurement of the depth and electrical properties of these materials, providing new clues about their origin.

For the full article:

http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEM0J2FWB8F_index_0.html
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 2:55 pm    Post subject: Building blocks of life formed on Mars Reply with quote

Carnegie Institution
11 December 2007

Building blocks of life formed on Mars

Washington, DC—Organic compounds contain carbon and hydrogen and form the building blocks of all life on Earth. By analyzing organic material and minerals in the Martian meteorite Allan Hills 84001, scientists at the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory have shown for the first time that building blocks of life formed on Mars early in its history. Previously, scientists have thought that organic material in ALH 84001 was brought to Mars by meteorite impacts or more speculatively originated from ancient Martian microbes.

The Carnegie-led team made a comprehensive study of the ALH 84001 meteorite and compared the results with data from related rocks found on Svalbard, Norway. The Svalbard samples occur in volcanoes that erupted in a freezing Arctic climate about 1 million years ago—possibly mimicking conditions on early Mars.

“Organic material occurs within tiny spheres of carbonate minerals in both the Martian and Earth rocks,” explained Andrew Steele, lead author of the study. “We found that the organic material is closely associated with the iron oxide mineral magnetite, which is the key to understanding how these compounds formed.”

The organic material in the rocks from Svalbard formed when volcanoes erupted under freezing conditions. During cooling, magnetite acted as a catalyst to form organic compounds from fluids rich in carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). This event occurred under conditions where no forms of life are likely to exist. The similar association of carbonate, magnetite and organic material in the Martian meteorite ALH 84001 is very compelling and shows that the organic material did not originate from Martian life forms but formed directly from chemical reactions within the rock. This is the first study to show that Mars is capable of forming organic compounds at all.

The organic material in the Allan Hills meteorite may have formed during two different events. The first, similar to the Svalbard samples, was during rapid cooling of fluids on Mars. A second event produced organic material from carbonate minerals during impact ejection of ALH 84001 from Mars.

“The results of this study show that volcanic activity in a freezing climate can produce organic compounds,” remarked co-author Hans E.F. Amundsen from Earth and Planetary Exploration Services. “This implies that building blocks of life can form on cold rocky planets throughout the Universe.”

“Our finding sets the stage for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission in 2009,” remarked Steele, who is a member of the Sample Analysis on Mars (SAM) instrument team onboard MSL. “We now know that Mars can produce organic compounds. Part of the mission's goal is to identify organic compounds, their sources, and to detect molecules relevant to life. We know that they are there. We just have to find them.”


###
The research is published in Meteoritics & Planetary Science http://meteoritics.org/index.htm

For more information on the MSL mission and the SAM instrument see http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ and http://ael.gsfc.nasa.gov/marsSAM.shtml

This research was funded by NASA SRLIDA, ASTEP, NAI and ASTID programs; the Marshall Scholarship program; and the University of Oxford, Earth Sciences Department and was carried out in collaboration with the Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition (AMASE) project.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2007 3:24 pm    Post subject: Strange Shapes Seen on Mars Reply with quote

Strange Shapes Seen on Mars
By Andrea Thompson, Staff Writer

posted: 11 December 2007 05:10 pm ET

SAN FRANCISCO—NASA scientists have discovered what might form some of the weirdest landscapes on Mars, winding channels carved into the Martian surface that scientists have dubbed "spiders," "lace" and "lizard skin."

The unusual landscape features form in an area of Mars' south pole called cryptic terrain because it once defied explanation.

But new observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, presented here today at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, bolster theories that the intricate patterns may be sculpted by springtime outbursts of carbon dioxide gas from underneath the frozen-carbon dioxide polar ice cap.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/spa.....-lace.html
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 3:28 pm    Post subject: Mars Magic: Red Planet Shines Bright Reply with quote

Mars Magic: Red Planet Shines Bright
By SPACE.com Staff

posted: 18 December 2007 11:29 am ET

Mars is closer to Earth now than any time until the year 2016, offering skywatchers a great look.

The Hubble Space Telescope took advantage of the opportunity, too, photographing the red planet earlier this month. The images were pasted together into a video showing Mars' full rotation.

The red planet is now the brightest "star" in the evening sky, easily visible by mid-evening until dawn. It comes closest to the Earth today at 6:46 p.m. EST, when it will be 54,783,381 miles (88,165,305 kilometers) from us.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/spa.....close.html
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 9:28 pm    Post subject: Fire and Brimstone Helped Form Mars Oceans Reply with quote

Fire and Brimstone Helped Form Mars Oceans
By Charles Q. Choi, Special to SPACE.com

posted: 20 December 2007 02:00 pm ET

The longstanding mystery of how oceans once formed on Mars could be solved by fire and brimstone.

Specifically, researchers now suggest that ancient volcanoes could have released brimstone — now more commonly known as sulfur — that warmed up the red planet enough for liquid water oceans in the early days of Mars. These findings might also shed insight on the young Earth, including the origins of life, scientists added.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/spa.....ulfur.html
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2007 5:37 pm    Post subject: MIT, Harvard offer solution to Mars enigma Reply with quote

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT, Harvard offer solution to Mars enigma
21 December 2007

How Mars could have been warm and wet but limestone free
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Planetary scientists have puzzled for years over an apparent contradiction on Mars. Abundant evidence points to an early warm, wet climate on the red planet, but there’s no sign of the widespread carbonate rocks, such as limestone, that should have formed in such a climate.

Now, a detailed analysis in the Dec. 21 issue of Science by MIT’s Maria T. Zuber and Itay Halevy and Daniel P. Schrag of Harvard University provides a possible answer to the mystery. In addition to being warmed by a greenhouse effect caused by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as on Earth, the early Mars may have had the greenhouse gas sulfur dioxide in its atmosphere. That would have interfered with the formation of carbonates, explaining their absence today.

It would also explain the discovery by the twin Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, of sulfur-rich minerals that apparently formed in bodies of water in that early Martian environment. And it may provide clues about the Earth’s history as well.

The challenge was to interpret the planet’s history, based on the data gathered by the Mars rovers—and especially Opportunity’s discovery of sulfate minerals—from just tiny fractions of the surface, says Zuber, who is head of MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and the E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics. “How do you take very detailed measurements of chemical composition at one tiny place on Mars,” she says, “and put it into the context of the broad evolution of the planet"” The breakthrough, she said, was when she and her colleagues realized “we’d been after the wrong molecule.”

After several years of exploring the role of carbon dioxide and the carbon cycle, she said, they realized “maybe the key is sulfur dioxide, not carbon dioxide.”

It was Opportunity’s discovery of the mineral jarosite, which only forms in highly acidic water, that set them thinking about how that acidic environment could have come about. Sulfur provided the answer.

The new analysis suggests that on Mars, sulfur went through a whole cycle through the atmosphere, bodies of water on the surface, and burial in the soil and crust, comparable to the well-known carbon cycle on Earth. Through most of Earth’s history, carbon dioxide has been released in volcanic eruptions, then absorbed into seawater, where it fosters the formation of calcium carbonate (limestone), which gets buried in ocean sediments.

Instead, the researchers propose, on Mars there may have been an analogous sulfur cycle. Much evidence suggests Mars may once have had an ocean that covered about a third of the planet, in its Northern hemisphere. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) dissolves easily in water, so after being spewed into the atmosphere by the giant volcanoes of Mars’ Tharsis bulge, much of it would have ended up in the water, where it inhibited the formation of carbonate minerals but led to the formation of silicates and sulfites, such as calcium sulfite.

These minerals degrade relatively rapidly, so they would not be expected on the surface of Mars today. But they also allow formation of clays, which have been found on Mars, and which added to the puzzle since clays are usually associated with the same conditions that produce carbonates.

The new picture of a sulfur cycle helps to solve another mystery, which is how the early Mars could have been warm enough to sustain liquid water on its surface. A carbon dioxide atmosphere produces some greenhouse warming, but sulfur dioxide is a much more powerful greenhouse gas. Just 10 parts per million of sulfur dioxide in the mostly carbon dioxide air would double the amount of warming and make it easier for liquid water to be stable.

The analysis may also tell us something about our own planet’s past. The early Earth’s environment could well have been similar to that on Mars, but most traces of that era have been erased by Earth’s very dynamic climate and tectonics. “This might have been a phase that Earth went through” in its early years, Zuber says. “It’s fascinating to think about whether this process may have played a role” in the evolution of the early Earth.


###
The work was funded by NASA, a Radcliffe fellowship, the George Merck Fund and a Harvard graduate fellowship.

Written by David Chandler, MIT News Office
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 2:03 pm    Post subject: Ice clouds put mars in the shade Reply with quote

Ice clouds put mars in the shade
ESA

16 January 2008

Until now, Mars has generally been regarded as a desert world, where a visiting astronaut would be surprised to see clouds scudding across the orange sky. However, new results show that the arid planet possesses high-level clouds that are sufficiently dense to cast a shadow on the surface.

For the full article:

http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Ma.....DAF_0.html
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2008 11:48 am    Post subject: Officially ice Reply with quote

Officially ice
By Ashley Yeager
August 30th, 2008; Vol.174 #5


Oven bakes out water; mission successes lead to longer lander life

The Phoenix Mars Lander has finally “tasted” and “touched” water ice, mission scientists reported. This result, along with other mission successes, has sparked NASA officials to extend the life of the lander, which touched down on the Red Planet May 25. The scientists will have an extra 34 days to learn about the soil and atmosphere of Mars’ polar region.

For the full article:

http://sciencenews.org/view/ge.....cially_ice
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