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STUDY: Lakes on Mars dried up 3.5bn years ago

A study reveals that lakes on Mars dried up 3.5bn years ago.

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Mars
Red Planet: Mars to Come Closest to Earth in 15 Years Next Month. Pixabay

The discovery of cracks on the surface of Mars by NASA’s Curiosity rover in early 2017 are evidence of lakes that likely dried up 3.5 billion years ago, confirmed a study, revealing details about the red planet’s ancient climate.

In early 2017 scientists announced the discovery of possible desiccation cracks in Gale Crater, which was filled by lakes 3.5 billion years ago.

“We are now confident that these are mudcracks,” said lead author Nathaniel Stein, a geologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, US.

Since desiccation mudcracks form only where wet sediment is exposed to air, their position closer to the centre of the lake bed rather than the edge also suggests that lake levels rose and fell dramatically over time.

“The mudcracks show that the lakes in Gale Crater had gone through the same type of cycles that we see on Earth,” Stein added.

Representational image for planet Mars.
Representational image. Pixabay

Although scientists have known almost since the moment Curiosity landed in 2012 that Gale Crater once contained lakes, “the mudcracks are exciting because they add context to our understanding of this ancient lacustrine system”, Stein explained, in the paper published in the journal Geology.

“We are capturing a moment in time. This research is just a chapter in a story that Curiosity has been building since the beginning of its mission,” he said.

Also Read: SpaceX to build Mars rockets in Los Angeles

For the study, the team focused on a coffee table-sized slab of rock nicknamed “Old Soaker”.

Old Soaker is crisscrossed with polygons identical in appearance to desiccation features on Earth.

They found that the polygons — confined to a single layer of rock and with sediment filling the cracks between them — formed from exposure to air, rather than other mechanisms such as thermal or hydraulic fracturing, the researchers said.  IANS

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NASA’s Newest Mars Lander Starts Digging Into The Red Planet

InSight landed on Mars last November. Flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California sent commands to the lander Thursday to begin digging. It'll rest for a bit before burrowing again.

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NASA
This photo, provided by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, shows the new Mars lander placing a quake monitor on the planet’s dusty red surface. The unprecedented milestone occurred less than a month after Mars InSight’s touchdown. VOA

NASA’s newest Mars lander has started digging into the red planet, but hit a few snags, scientists said Friday.

The German drilling instrument on the InSight lander hit what appeared to be a couple of stones. It only managed to burrow between half a foot (18 centimeters) and about 1-and-a-half feet (50 centimeters), far short of the first dig’s goal, said the German Aerospace Center.

The hammering device in the “mole” was developed by the Astronika engineering company in Poland.

NASA
The spacecraft already has a seismometer on the surface, listening for potential quakes. The lander is stationary, but has a robot arm to maneuver these two main experiments. VOA

“This is not very good news for me because although the hammer is proving itself … the Mars environment is not very favorable to us,” said the company’s chief engineer, Jerzy Grygorczuk.

Over time, the team is shooting for a depth of up to 16 feet (5 meters), which would set an otherworldly record. The lander is digging deep to measure the planet’s internal temperature.

Mars
Red Planet: Mars to Come Closest to Earth in 15 Years Next Month. Pixabay

Also Read:Space X Crew Capsule Successfully Docks at International Space Station

InSight landed on Mars last November. Flight controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California sent commands to the lander Thursday to begin digging. It’ll rest for a bit before burrowing again.

The spacecraft already has a seismometer on the surface, listening for potential quakes. The lander is stationary, but has a robot arm to maneuver these two main experiments. (VOA)