Chavdarian and Sumner have studied cracks and fins in the sulfate-rich sands at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. These features look remarkably similar to features seen by the Opportunity Mars Rover. Working at White Sands and in the lab, Chavdarian found that these features only form in sulfate sand when it is damp. The work was published earlier this year in the journal Geology.
The presence of flowing liquid water at the surface demonstrates that Mars has an active hydrologic cycle that includes significant water exchange between the subsurface and the surface, Sumner said.
“Even though liquid water is only transiently at the surface, it probably provided some water vapor to the atmosphere through evaporation and may have produced hydrous salts in surface sediments. Such hydrous sulfate salts have been inferred to be present at both MER rover sites, with the sedimentary rocks observed by Opportunity at Meridiani Planum containing more than 50% sulfates. Graduate student Greg Chavdarian and I proposed that some of the fracturing in rocks observed by Opportunity might be due to water cycling between these hydrous minerals and the atmosphere based on similar features in sulfate dunes at White Sands,” she said.
Sumner and Chavdarian have been testing their hypothesis by monitoring water cycling in the dunes at White Sands, but it has been difficult to extend their observations to match Martian conditions because of the view that the planet is so dry. But this new work suggests that a much wetter view of the planet will emerge, Sumner said.
The presence of flowing water on the surface of Mars raises many exciting possibilities for looking for life on Mars, Sumner said.
“Life does not persist in the absence of liquid water, so many astrobiologists interested in evaluating whether or not life ever existed on Mars have focused on looking for evidence of life in ancient rocks (fossil life) or have worked towards being able to drill into the subsurface of Mars to depths where liquid water may be present. Before today, we have had scant evidence that liquid water was present at depth. Now we do. And not only do we know that liquid water exists, we know that it flows to the surface, at least locally.
“The transient presence of liquid water at the surface suggests that we may not have to go into the subsurface to look for life; evidence of life or life itself might be carried to the surface by this flowing water. The water evaporates or infiltrates rapidly enough that life is unlikely to persist on the surface, but these gullies provide us with a signal from an environment within the planet that is more likely to host life than the surface.
“The presence of liquid water does not mean that life exists on Mars, but liquid water is essential for life,” Sumner said.
Andy Fell | EurekAlert!
A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL
23.06.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?
23.06.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology