Researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Lunar Planetary Institute, and Carnegie Institute of Washington report on geochemical studies that help towards settling the controversy that surrounds the origin, abundance, and history of water on Mars.
The abundance and origin of water on Mars underpins a number of planetary science hypotheses including crust and mantle dynamics, and even the existence of life. Researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology, NASA, the Lunar Planetary Institute, and the Carnegie Institute of Washington analyse the geochemical and isotopic composition of two different meteorites and conclude definitively that the mantle is dry and provide the first evidence of assimilation of old Martian crust into the mantle .
Despite its crucial role in biological and geological processes information about water on Mars is still controversial. In addition previous geochemical studies of Martian basalts (shergottites) have raised unsettled questions over the sources of the parental magmas.
The researchers studied two meteorites that provide different samples from the Martian mantle and crust. “There are several competing theories that account for the diverse isotopic and geochemical compositions of Martian meteorites,” said Tomohiro Usui, a former NASA/ LPI postdoctoral fellow who led the research. “Until this investigation there was no direct evidence that primitive Martian lavas contained material from the surface of Mars”.
The researchers also report direct evidence that the dry Martian mantle retains a primordial ratio of hydrogen and its heavier isotope deuterium that is similar to the ratio in water on Earth. This further implies that terrestrial planets including Earth have similar water sources, which are chondritic meteorites, and not comets.
The search for water elsewhere in the solar system is a strong driving factor behind planetary science. Its presence may suggest the existence of life as well as a number of other geological processes [2,3].
The sculpted channels of the Martian southern hemisphere speak loudly of flowing water, but this terrain is ancient. Consequently, planetary scientists often describe early Mars as ‘warm and wet’ and current Mars as ‘cold and dry’.
The composition of volatile elements such as hydrogen and nitrogen can differ from that of the nebular gas from which the solar system formed [4,5]. Volatile gases are released from Martian interiors by volcanic activity and have a critical influence on the climate in Mars. Hydrogen (H), in particular, is an important indicator of atmospheric loss and whether climate change may result turning Mars from wet and warm to cold and dry.
As on Earth hydrogen also exists in the form of its isotope heavy hydrogen or deuterium (D), which has a neutron as well as proton at the nucleus. The ratio H/D changes as a result of lighter hydrogen being lost more readily from the Martian atmosphere. Consequently D/H ratios can provide important information on the origin of water and rocks on Mars.
Much of our information about the martian interior comes from studies of the basaltic martian meteorites (shergottites) . However conclusions as to the water content range from relatively dry (1-36 ppm) to relatively wet, such as 73–290 ppm . In addition previous geochemical studies of martian meteorites indicate two sources of parental magma, one that has an enriched elemental composition and one that has a depleted elemental composition.
The researchers studied samples of shergottite –martian basalt - from two meteorites. One of the meteorites, Yamato (Y) 980459, appears to be a basalt that underwent minimal modification as it was transported to the surface of Mars from the deep martian mantle. In contrast, another meteorite, LAR06319, appears to have sampled a martian crust that had been in contact with the martian atmosphere.
As the authors also point out it can be difficult to estimate the D/H ratio of the Martian mantle from meteorite samples due to terrestrial contamination. Air left in the vacuum system during analysis, oils (and/or water) used as lubricants during polishing, and epoxy (or acrylic) resin used as amounting agent can all contribute to contaminants. Resins can be the most challenging and unavoidable sources of contaminants for Martian meteorites as they penetrate the many microfractures of the shergottite and cannot be removed. The researchers used a sample preparation method using indium metal instead of resin and thus avoided this primary source of contamination in their samples.
“Tomo was able to demonstrate that the initial hydrogen isotopic composition of Mars was Earth-like, but not from Earth because he designed and conducted an experiment that greatly reduced laboratory contamination to the meteorite sample here on Earth,” said Justin Simon, a NASA cosmochemist on the team.
They analysed the isotopic composition of volatile elements in the two meteorite samples and provide direct evidence of a mantle that is dry and has a depleted elemental composition. They report definitive evidence that the Martian mantle has retained a primordial D/H ratio similar to water on Earth. They also demonstrate that that the enriched shergottite source does not represent an enriched mantle domain in the deep interior but, rather, assimilation of old Martian crust. The result is the first indication of such crust mantle interaction.
1. Tomohiro Usui, Conel M.O’D. Alexander, Jianhua Wang, Justin I. Simon, John H. Jones Earth and Planetary Science Letters 357–358 (2012) 119–129
2. Francis M. McCubbin, Erik H. Hauri, Stephen M. Elardo, Kathleen E. Vander Kaaden, Jianhua Wang, and Charles K. Shearer, Jr Geology doi:10.1130/G33242
3. Francis Albare`de Nature 461 (2009) 1227-1233
4. Bernard Marty Earth and Planetary Science Letters 313–314 (2012) 56–66
5. C. M.O’D. Alexander, R. Bowden, M. L. Fogel, K. T. Howard,3,4 C. D. K. Herd, L. R. Nittler doi: 10.1126/science.1223474
Further Reports about: chemical composition > Earth's magnetic field > geological processes > information technology > lunar base > Mars > Martian crust > martian meteorites > Martian Winds > meteorite > NASA > NASA’s Kepler Mission > Planetary > planetary science > solar system > water source
More articles from Earth Sciences:
Noble gases hitch a ride on hydrous minerals
17.06.2013 | Brown University
Global cooling as significant as global warming
17.06.2013 | Newcastle University
... two engines aircraft project “Elektro E6”.
The countdown has been started for opening the gates again for the worldwide leading aviation and space event in Le Bourget, Paris from June 17th - 23rd, 2013.
EADCO & PC-Aero will present at the Paris Air Show in Hall H4 booth F-7 their new future aircraft and innovative project: ...
Siemens scientists have developed new kinds of ceramics in which they can embed transformers.
The new development allows power supply transformers to be reduced to one fifth of their current size so that the normally separate switched-mode power supply units of light-emitting diodes can be integrated into the module's heat sink.
The new technology was developed in cooperation with industrial and research partners who ...
Cheaper clean-energy technologies could be made possible thanks to a new discovery.
Led by Raymond Schaak, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University, research team members have found that an important chemical reaction that generates hydrogen from water is effectively triggered -- or catalyzed -- by a nanoparticle composed of nickel and phosphorus, two inexpensive elements that are abundant on Earth. ...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT generated a lot of interest at the LASER World of Photonics 2013 trade fair with its numerous industrial laser technology innovations.
Its highlights included beam sources and manufacturing processes for ultrashort laser pulses as well as ways to systematically optimize machining processes using computer simulations. There was even a specialist booth at the fair dedicated to the revolutionary technological potential of digital photonic production.
Now in its fortieth year, LASER World ...
It's not reruns of "The Jetsons", but researchers working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new microscopy technique that uses a process similar to how an old tube television produces a picture—cathodoluminescence—to image nanoscale features.
Combining the best features of optical and scanning electron microscopy, the fast, versatile, and high-resolution technique allows scientists to view surface and subsurface features potentially as small as 10 nanometers in size.
The new microscopy technique, described in the journal AIP Advances,* uses a beam of electrons to excite a specially ...
17.06.2013 | Studies and Analyses
17.06.2013 | Health and Medicine
17.06.2013 | Life Sciences
14.06.2013 | Event News
13.06.2013 | Event News
10.06.2013 | Event News