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!
Further Improvement of Qubit Lifetime for Quantum Computers
09.12.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich
Electron highway inside crystal
09.12.2016 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
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...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine