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Flowing water filled Gale Crater on Mars: Indian-origin scientist

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Washington: Around 3.3-3.8 billion years ago, a series of streams and lakes existed on the Red Planet, filling the Gale Crater with sediment deposited as layers that formed the foundation for the mountain named Mouth Sharp, an Indian-origin scientist has revealed.

According to Ashwin Vasavada, project scientist with NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), the Red Planet appears to have had a more massive atmosphere billions of years ago than it does today, with an active hydrosphere capable of storing water in long-lived lakes.

The MSL team has concluded that this water helped to fill Gale Crater, Curiosity’s landing site.

“Observations from Curiosity rover suggest that a series of long-lived streams and lakes existed at some point in the past, delivering sediment that slowly built up the lower layers of Mount Sharp,” explained Vasavada.

Using Curiosity data, MSL scientists have pieced together an increasingly coherent and compelling story about the evolution of this region of Mars.

Before Curiosity landed on Mars, scientists proposed that Gale Crater had filled with layers of sediments.

Some hypotheses implied that the sediments accumulated from wind-blown dust and sand whereas others focused on the possibility that sediment layers were deposited in ancient streams and lakes.

The latest results indicate that these wetter scenarios were correct for the lower portions of Mount Sharp.

“During the traverse of Gale, we have noticed patterns in the geology where we saw evidence of ancient fast-moving streams with coarser gravel as well as places where streams appear to have emptied out into bodies of standing water,” Vasavada emphasised.

The prediction was that we should start seeing water-deposited, fine-grained rocks closer to Mount Sharp.

“Now that we have arrived, we are seeing finely laminated mud-stones in abundance. These silty layers in the strata are interpreted as ancient lake deposits,” he pointed out.

“These finely laminated mud-stones are very similar to those we see on Earth,” added Woody Fischer, professor of geobiology and coauthor of the paper.

The mud-stones indicates the presence of bodies of standing water in the form of lakes that remained for long periods of time, possibly repeatedly expanding and contracting during hundreds to millions of years.

These lakes deposited the sediment that eventually formed the lower portion of the mountain.

A lingering question surrounds the original source of the water that carried sediment into the crater.

For flowing water to have existed on the surface, Mars must have had a thicker atmosphere and warmer climate.

Curiosity has been exploring Gale Crater since August 2012.

In mid-September 2014, the rover reached the foothills of Mount Sharp. Curiosity has been exploring the base of the mountain since then.

The new findings were published in the journal Science.

(IANS)

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NASA’s Kepler Discovers Nearly 100 New Exoplanets

NASA researchers found that some of the signals were caused by multiple star systems or noise from the spacecraft

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UFO religion as a concept is now becoming a part of popular understanding.
Countless galaxies exist in the universe, each hiding secrets that humankind is yet to unearth. Pixabay
  • NASA’s Kepler has discovered nearly 100 new exoplanets
  • Some of the planets discovered are as large as Jupiter
  • NASA has also found planet which orbits very bright stars

An international team of scientists have confirmed the discovery of nearly 100 new exoplanets — planets located outside our solar system.

The discovery was based on data from the second mission of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope or K2 released in 2014.

NASA has discovered nearly 100 exoplanets. Wikimedia Commons
NASA has discovered nearly 100 exoplanets. Wikimedia Commons

K2 searches for exoplanet transits by registering dips in light caused by the shadow of an exoplanet as it crosses in front of its host star.

NASA researchers found that some of the signals were caused by multiple star systems or noise from the spacecraft.

But they also detected planets that range from sub-Earth-sized to the size of Jupiter and larger.

Also Read: Milky Way’s neighbouring galaxy is of the same size, not bigger

One of the planets detected was orbiting a very bright star.

“We validated a planet on a 10-day orbit around a star called HD 212657, which is now the brightest star found by K2 missions to host a validated planet,” said lead author Andrew Mayo, a doctoral student at the National Space Institute (DTU Space) at the Technical University of Denmark.

Some of the planets found are as big as Jupiter. VOA
Some of the planets found are as big as Jupiter. VOA

For the study, appearing in the Astronomical Journal, the team started out analyzing 275 candidates of which 149 were validated as real exoplanets.

In turn 95 of these planets have proved to be new discoveries, Mayo said.

The Kepler spacecraft was first launched in 2009 to hunt for exoplanets in a single patch of sky, but in 2013 a mechanical failure crippled the telescope.

NASA has found many planets before as well. Wikimedia Commons
NASA has found many planets before as well. Wikimedia Commons

However, astronomers and engineers devised a way to repurpose and save the space telescope by changing its field of view periodically. This solution paved the way for the follow up K2 mission.

Adding the newly discovered exoplanets brings the total number of exoplanets by K2 mission to almost 300, the study said.

Also Read: NASA sounding rocket probing dark regions of space falter

The first planet orbiting a star similar to our own Sun was detected only in 1995. Today some 3,600 exoplanets have been found, ranging from rocky Earth-sized planets to large gas giants like Jupiter. IANS