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Thursday, May 3, 2007


Patchy Water

Mars is shown by false colors in this map made using THEMIS temperature measurements. Blue shows where ice would be 5 centimeters (2 inches) deep, while red shows an ice depth of more than 18 centimeters (7 inches).
Mars is shown by false colors in this map made using THEMIS temperature measurements. Blue shows where ice would be 5 centimeters (2 inches) deep, while red shows an ice depth of more than 18 centimeters (7 inches).
Credit: NASA/JPL/Arizona State University
Scientist at Arizona State University have found ice at variable depths on Mars. "Scientists have known for more than a decade that water is on Mars, mostly in the form of ice," says Philip Christensen of ASU's Mars Space Flight Facility. Christensen, a Regents' Professor of geological sciences at ASU, designed THEMIS but did not participate in this research. "What's exciting is finding out where the ice is in detail and how it got there. We've reached the next level of sophistication in our questions. ... [Gamma Ray Spectrometer] can probe a meter deep, but it has a giant footprint [~500km]. Most infrared spectrometers can detect surface ice and ice a few fractions of a millimeter down. THEMIS is sensitive to thermal waves which can penetrate several inches deep - and it can spot details the size of a football field."

Joshua Bandfield, a research specialist in Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration and sole author of the paper, explains, "pump a lot of heat into the ground and increase the depth where you'll find stable ice." In contrast, he says, dusty areas tend to insulate the ice, allowing it to survive closer to the surface. "These two surface materials - rock and dust - vary widely across the ground, giving underground ice a patchy distribution." Bandfield adds "[t]he take-home message for the Phoenix lander is that the THEMIS results show a lot of patchiness in the ground ice, and this should continue down to smaller and smaller scales." "Phoenix", he adds, "may find ground ice is shallower and much easier to reach in some spots than in others."

THEMIS @ ASU


- posted by Jim @ 9:05 EST

(permanent link)

Saturday, May 5, 2007


Ancient Volcanic Explosion

The lower coarse-grained unit shows granular textures toward the bottom of the image and massive textures. Also shown is a feature interpreted to be a
The lower coarse-grained unit shows granular textures toward the bottom of the image and massive textures. Also shown is a feature interpreted to be a "bomb sag," which is 4 centimeters across. This false color image was obtained using Spirit's panoramic camera.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS/Cornell
At "Home Plate," a plateau of layered bedrock approximately 2 meters (6 feet) high within the "Inner Basin" of Columbia Hills, Spirit has discover signs of ancient volcanic activity. These are the first signs with a high degree of confidence that point to volcanism. One of the strongest supporting details is "bomb sag." They are formed when rocks are shot in the air and land in softer ground, which deform the "bomb sag." This discovery was made as Spirit returned to "Home Plate." . "We decided to go back to Home Plate, once the Martian winter ended, because it is one of the most interesting places that we've found on Gusev Crater," Squyres said. "Last year we primarily explored the northern and eastern sides of it. This time we're hoping to get to the southern and western sides."

As of April 26, Spirit had spent 1,177 sols, or Martian days, on the surface of Mars and had driven 7,095 meters (4.4 miles), and Opportunity had spent 1,157 sols and driven 10,509 meters (6.5 miles). "Considering their age, both rovers are in good health. All science instruments are functioning and continuing to return superb science data," said John Callas, project manager of the Mars Exploration Rover mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

(More info: NASA)


- posted by Jim @ 15:11 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


More evidence for water

The silica-rich patch, informally named
The silica-rich patch, informally named "Gertrude Weise" after a player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, was exposed when Spirit drove over it during the 1,150th Martian day, or sol, of Spirit's Mars surface mission (March 29, 2007).
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
Spirit has found a patch of concentrated silica, so concentrated that water must have been present during its creation. The alpha particle X-ray spectrometer detected a region of 90% pure silica. "You could hear people gasp in astonishment," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the Mars rovers' science instruments. "This is a remarkable discovery. And the fact that we found something this new and different after nearly 1,200 days on Mars makes it even more remarkable. It makes you wonder what else is still out there." Spirit worked within 50m of the patch for months. "This discovery has driven home to me the value of in-depth, careful exploration," Squyres said. "This is a target-rich environment, and it is a good thing we didn't go hurrying through it."

(More info: JPL/NASA)


- posted by Jim @ 15:14 EST

(permanent link)

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Methanogen Experiments

Tim Kral and graduate student Brandon G. Gibson, of University of Arkansas; Heaven A. Kozup of Gwynedd-Mercy College have performed experiments with three species of methanogens on clay, sand, gravel, basalt and Mars soil stimulant. "We wanted to see if different types of rocks and soils could supply the other necessary ingredients for them to produce methane," Kral said. The sand, gravel and Mars soil stimulant all produced methane. One species of methanogen produced methane on basalt, which is commonly found in Martian soil, and no activity was found in the clay. Kral plans to re-create the experiments in a slightly different manner."This is a hodgepodge of things that come together and tell a story, Kral said. "You have to put the parts in place before you can see the whole picture. We are currently teasing out the parts so we can build the picture."

(More info: Univ. of Arkansas)


- posted by Jim @ 22:19 EST

(permanent link)

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