Some four billion years ago, our neighbor planet Mars had a warm and wet climate and would thus have provided a much more favorable environment for the development of life than today.
This is the conclusion following a recent study undertaken with several instruments on one of NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers (MER), Spirit. The main body of evidence was provided by the 2006 survey results obtained by NASA's rover 'Spirit' in the Columbia Hills region of Mars using the Mössbauer spectrometer developed in Mainz.
"Working in collaboration with an international group, the Mössbauer team has now for the first time been able to demonstrate the presence of deposits of carbonate minerals in situ on the Martian surface. This is the kind of proof that we have long been looking for to support the hypothesis advanced some decades ago that the planet once had a warm and wet climate," explains Dr Göstar Klingelhöfer of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. The results of the study have now been published in the journal 'Science'.
During the project, the researchers worked on the assumption that, in order to have had a warmer and wetter climate during its early history, Mars would have to have had a much denser atmosphere with considerably higher levels of CO2 than today. This sort of atmosphere would result in the formation of rocks with high carbonate mineral content. Analyses conducted over a period of several years have enabled the Mössbauer Group to identify a rocky outcrop of just this kind on Mars that contains significant amounts of magnesium iron carbonate. "Although we were already aware that the data obtained from Columbia Hills was inconsistent with standard theories, we did not quite know how to interpret it," Klingelhöfer continues. His team developed the miniaturized Mössbauer spectrometer that is attached to the rover and is designed to analyze iron-containing minerals on the surface of Mars. Over the past several years, NASA scientist Richard Morris has been analyzing the results in a series of laboratory experiments. Findings reported by two other rover instruments – the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer developed by the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz and a thermal emission spectrometer – corroborate the evidence: The rocky outcrop dubbed 'Comanche' consists of nearly 20 percent carbonates. Rocks with such a high content of carbonates can only have formed in the presence of large volumes of water with a more or less neutral pH in a dense, warm, moist CO2-rich atmosphere - conditions that would be ideal for life. "This carbonate is exactly what we have always been looking for," claims a happy Göstar Klingelhöfer in view of the findings, which demonstrate the presence of mainly magnesium iron carbonate and the silicate mineral olivine in the rocks. And Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, is equally enthusiastic: "This is one of the most significant findings by the rovers." Squyres is Principal Investigator of the Mars Exploration Rover Mission and co-author of the recent ‘Science’ article.
Incidentally, this composition is similar to that reported for the carbonate globules present in Mars meteorite ALH 84001 discovered in the Allan Hills in Antarctica. In the late 1990s, the Allan Hills meteorite made headline news worldwide when researchers claimed that certain structures within it may represent biological signatures. Like the Comanche outcrop in the Columbia Hills in the Martian Gusev crater, ALH 84001 is estimated to be some four billion years old. The scientists postulate that the Gusev rocks, with their significant 16 to 34 percent content of carbonates, were probably deposited from a carbonate-rich solution with a near neutral pH under hydrothermal conditions – similar to those obtained in the hot springs on Iceland and Spitzbergen – during a period of volcanic activity in the so-called Noachian epoch some 3.5 to 4.6 billion years ago.Weitere Informationen:
Petra Giegerich | idw
Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores
07.12.2016 | Santa Fe Institute
Sea ice hit record lows in November
07.12.2016 | University of Colorado at Boulder
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences