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Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter Computer-generated perspective of the Tractus Catena pit chains. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G.
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter View of Mars from Viking 2 lander, September 1976. (NASA/JPL-Caltech) The Curiosity rover is currently on its way to Mars, scheduled to make a dramatic landing within Gale Crater in mid-August and begin its hunt for the geologic signatures of a watery, life-friendly past.
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter Curious "lava lamp" landforms in Mars' Hellas Basin may have been created by ice. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona One of the “weirdest and least understood” areas of Mars, the enormous Hellas Impact Basin contains strange flowing landforms that bespeak of some specialized and large-scale geologic process having taken place. The HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recently captured the image above, showing what’s being called “lava lamp terrain” — stretched and contorted surface that looks like overworked modeling clay or pulled taffy… or, with a bit of imagination, the melted, mesmerizing contents of a party light from another era.
THEY look dark, but mysterious expanses on Mars are mainly made of glass forged in past volcanoes. The dark regions make up more than 10 million square kilometres of the Martian northern lowlands, but their composition wasn't clear. Past spectral measurements indicated that they are unlike dark regions found elsewhere on the Red Planet, which consist mainly of basalt. Briony Horgan and Jim Bell of Arizona State University in Tempe analysed near-infrared spectra of the regions, gathered by the Mars Express orbiter. They found absorption bands characteristic of the iron in volcanic glass, a shiny substance similar to obsidian that forms when magma cools too fast for its minerals to crystallise ( Geology , DOI: 10.1130/G32755.1 ). The glass likely takes the form of sand-sized grains, as it does in glass-rich fields in Iceland.
Cosmic impacts that once bombed Mars might have sent temperatures skyrocketing upward on the Red Planet in ancient times, enough to set warming of the surface on a runaway course, researchers say. According to scientists, these findings could potentially help explain how this cold, dry world might have once sustained liquid water, conditions potentially friendly for life . The largest craters still visible on Mars were created about 3.7 billion to 4.1 billion years ago.
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter The transition between Acidalia Planitia and Tempe Terra from the Mars Express High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). Credit ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter Outflow channel in the Tharsis region on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona Large features on Mars called outflow channels have been a point of contention among planetary scientists.
Sea change: previous ideas that lowlands on Mars (blue) once hosted oceans are being overturned. NASA/JPL-Caltech The debate began when nineteenth-century Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli thought he saw water-filled canali , or channels, on the red planet: just how wet was Mars? “This is a pendulum that has been swinging back and forth,” says Jeff Andrews-Hanna, a planetary scientist at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. The canali were an illusion, and no one doubts that Mars today is dry except for possible meagre seeps of groundwater.
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter This image provided by NASA shows a scraped area on Mars known as "Snow White," photographed on July 8, 2008. Two samples from Snow White were delivered to the Phoenix Mars Lander's wet-chemistry lab, and tests turned up evidence of perchlorate. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona It happens every summer in humid air: the salt in your salt shaker clumps together as the salt draws in the water from the air.
Space :: 60-Second Space :: March 26, 2012 :: :: Email :: Print Significant amounts of water exist on Mars, sequestered within hydrated minerals and stored in the planet's crust. John Matson reports Showcasing more than fifty of the most provocative, original, and significant online essays from 2011, The Best Science Writing Online 2012 will change the way... Read More » Mars today is pretty dry.
Despite claims in the 1890s that Mars was filled with canals teeming with water, research over the past several decades has suggested that in fact, Mars has only a tiny amount of water, mostly near its surface. Then, during the 1970s, as part of NASA’s Mariner space orbiter program, dry river beds and canyons on Mars were discovered—the first indications that surface water may have once existed there. The Viking program subsequently found enormous river valleys on the planet, and in 2003 it was announced that the Mars Odyssey spacecraft had actually detected minute quantities of liquid water on and just below the surface, which was later confirmed by the Phoenix lander. Now, according to an article published yesterday in the journal Geology , there is evidence that Mars is home to vast reservoirs of water in its interior as well.
More Science :: News :: March 23, 2012 :: :: Email :: Print Liquid remains the leading explanation for newly discovered streaks on Martian slopes By John Matson LINING UP: Recurring slope lineae at Horowitz Crater on Mars may be the tracks of fluid flowing through the soil. Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona THE WOODLANDS, Tex.
Mars's dust bowl image may need a makeover. Dark streaks seen forming in summer and fading in winter might be signs of water flowing just beneath the surface. The sudden appearance of streaks on sloping ground have been attributed to present-day liquid water before, although their origin is still debated. Light streaks have been seen appearing on steep slopes in images taken years apart by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft.