Mt. Vernon Register-News

Features

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
Features
  • 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

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 4.49.09 PM.png Train, entertain your pets with these 3 smartphone apps

    While they may not have thumbs to use the phone, pets can benefit from smartphone apps designed specifically for them.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Millions of Android phones, tablets vulnerable to Heartbleed bug

    Millions of smartphones and tablets running Google's Android operating system have the Heartbleed software bug, in a sign of how broadly the flaw extends beyond the Web and into consumer devices.

    April 11, 2014

  • DayCareCosts.jpg Day care's cost can exceed college tuition in some states

    Most parents will deal with an even larger kid-related expense long before college, and it's a cost that very few of them are as prepared for: day care.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10 tips for surviving a severe allergy season

    My colleague Brady Dennis reported recently that the arrival of warmer weather will soon unleash a pollen tsunami in parts of the country where the winter has been especially long and cold. Here are some survival tips from Clifford W. Bassett, an allergy specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

    April 9, 2014

  • To get quality care, it helps to be the right kind of patient

    I am a family physician. Sometimes I must step out of the comfort of my clinical role and into that of patient or family caregiver. Generally, these trips to the other side of the exam table inspire a fair amount of anxiety.

    April 8, 2014

  • A man with amnesia taught us how memories become personal

    Although not as celebrated as the late American amnesiac H.M., for my money K.C. taught us more important and poignant things about how memory works. He showed how we make memories personal and personally meaningful. He also had a heck of a life story.

    April 7, 2014

  • Long-term unemployed are still strong hires, study shows

    People who have been out of work for an extended period, once hired, tend to be just as productive on the job as those with more typical work histories, according to an analysis of almost 20,000 employees.

    April 4, 2014

  • Hate With Friends, the fun new Facebook tool

    Hating movies, earworms, conventions of grammar, clothing brands, diet fads - you get the twinkle of pleasure without the glob of guilt, or the cold brush of fear. A Coldplay song doesn't know you hate it.

    April 2, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks