The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Community News Network

January 23, 2014

Water, condition for life on Mars, confirmed by second NASA rover

SAN FRANCISCO —  Samples from the rim of a 3.7 billion year old crater on Mars are the earliest evidence of water activity yet discovered, confirming previous findings that conditions existed on the now-rocky planet for life formation.

A group of rocks called the Matijevic formation suggested mild conditions on Mars billions of years ago, according to a finding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Opportunity rover, which touched down on the planet in 2004. The discovery was published on line Thursday in the journal Science.

The finding adds to the more-recent Curiosity mission, which also found evidence of ancient habitability 3.5 billion years ago. While that doesn't mean life actually formed on Mars, it gives scientists more hope, said Raymond Arvidson, the study author and head of NASA's Planetary Data System Geosciences Node.

"The older you go in geologic time, the wetter it was on the surface, and the more evidence for flowing water and ground water, under conditions that are more earth-like," said Arvidson, who also is a professor at Washington University at St. Louis.

Later in Mars's history, the ground water was more acidic and salty, making it difficult for even the most extreme known bacteria to live, Arvidson said in a telephone interview.

The discovery was made on Endeavor, an ancient impact crater from the first period of geologic time, Arvidson said. It has since been heavily eroded by water. The rover found a clay mineral that forms in water under mildly acidic conditions. Though Endeavor is old, the Matijevic formation is even older, and is made of rocks that were sitting on Mars when the asteroid or comet that created the crater hit.

The researchers also found a kind of clay that commonly forms on earth when water flows through fractures in the rock. That suggests a lot of mild groundwater leeched material from the rocks, Arvidson said.

It isn't clear that the conditions were right to preserve any carbon, which can be a signature of life. If Curiosity, the rover that landed on Mars in 2012, were to drive to the Matijevic formation and sample it, that may aid in determining whether any carbon was there.

The younger rover is now headed toward Mt. Sharp, which is composed of about 5,000 meters (16,404 feet) of layered sedimentary rock, which Arvidson described as "a geological strip chart recorder" of Mars's history.

"This is way beyond saying we have water on Mars," he said. "This is trying to get to past chemical conditions of the water, and say something about habitability, and directing future missions to the juiciest havens."



 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 18, 2014

  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 18, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • quake.jpg Pennsylvania won’t take action following Ohio ruling on quakes, fracking

    Pennsylvania officials plan no action despite new Ohio rules on drilling that affect a seismically active area near the state line.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: Boston bomb scare defendant appears in court

    The man accused of carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker near the Boston Marathon finish line on the anniversary of the bombings was arraigned Wednesday. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    April 17, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 17, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 17, 2014

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 16, 2014