Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

ChemCam follows the ‘Yellowknife Road’ to Martian wet area

16.01.2013
Researchers have tracked a trail of minerals that point to the prior presence of water at the Curiosity rover site on Mars.

Instrument confirms presence of gypsum and related minerals


The Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity Rover recently took this photo of the Martian landscape looking toward Mount Sharp while on its way toward Yellowknife Bay—an area where researchers have found minerals indicating the past presence of water. (NASA Photo)

Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the French Space Agency have tracked a trail of minerals that point to the prior presence of water at the Curiosity rover site on Mars.

Researchers from the Mars Science Laboratory’s ChemCam team today described how the laser instrument aboard the Curiosity Rover—an SUV-sized vehicle studying the surface of the Red Planet—has detected veins of gypsum running through an area known as Yellowknife Bay, located some 700 meters away from where the Curiosity Rover landed five months ago.

“These veins are composed mainly of hydrated calcium sulfate, such as bassinite or gypsum,” said ChemCam team member Nicolas Mangold, of the Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique de Nantes, in Nantes, France. “On Earth, forming veins like these requires water circulating in fractures.”

Gypsum and some related minerals can be formed when water reacts with other rocks and minerals. The presence of gypsum and its cousin, bassinite, along with physical evidence of alluvial flow patterns previously seen during the Mars Science Laboratory mission, could indicate that the Yellowknife Bay area once was home to ponds created by runoff or subsurface water that had percolated to the surface, said ChemCam team member Sam Clegg of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Clegg and his colleagues first noticed the possibility of a gypsum signature weeks ago when ChemCam’s spectrometer recorded an increasing amount of calcium and a corresponding decrease in the silicon composition of a sample. Gypsum, a sedimentary rock, is made of calcium sulfate with bound water, while most of the rocks sampled so far on Mars are primarily composed of silicon. The change in composition indicated to the team that they were seeing something new in Martian geology.

The ChemCam instrument fires a powerful laser to vaporize rocks and then uses its spectrometer to analyze the samples. Because the laser can fire several pulses to sample rock situated below layers of surface dust, the ChemCam team was able to catch their first signs of calcium before anyone could actually see it. However, the instrument’s camera later was able to view the pale veins of mineral after the rock surface had been dusted off by laser blasts.

“Being able to see what we are sampling has been tremendously useful to the team and to the mission,” said ChemCam team leader Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

As the rover moved down into Yellowknife Bay, ChemCam’s cameras as well as others aboard Curiosity have documented the increasing presence of light-colored veins of minerals that could be telltale signs that Mars was once a wet planet. Because water is a necessary ingredient of life as we know it here on Earth, the findings are exciting.

“Since the Mars Science Laboratory mission is focused on whether Mars is or was habitable, this new evidence of water on or below the planet’s surface is very exciting,” Wiens said. “We should be able to learn more about what we’re seeing once mission scientists can use Curiosity’s drill to sample some of these larger portions of material and analyze them using the CheMin instrument.”

Shifting to Earth Time and Bi-Continental Control Rooms

Meanwhile, members of the ChemCam team have shifted from Mars time to Earth time and a pair of control rooms while guiding ChemCam’s activities. Since November, the team has alternated operation of the instrument back and forth between control rooms in Toulouse, France, and Los Alamos, N.M. The arrangement allows the team to communicate back and forth, while sharing direct responsibility for the instrument between the Los Alamos and French team members. The arrangement provides synergy and allows for periods of hands-on activity and much needed rest.

“This arrangement has worked out very well and has allowed for all members of the ChemCam team to participate in the mission without working themselves too hard,” Wiens said.

ChemCam is a collaboration between research organizations within the United States and France. More than 45 scientists, students and other personnel are currently active in North America and Europe on the ChemCam team. A dozen scientists, engineers, and students are leading Los Alamos National Laboratory operations of ChemCam. The ChemCam system is one of 10 instruments mounted on the MSL mission’s Curiosity rover.
About Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a team composed of Bechtel National, the University of California, The Babcock & Wilcox Company, and URS for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.

James E. Rickman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.lanl.gov

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht SF State astronomer searches for signs of life on Wolf 1061 exoplanet
20.01.2017 | San Francisco State University

nachricht Molecule flash mob
19.01.2017 | Technische Universität Wien

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>