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Lakes, snowmelt-fed streams formed on Mars much later than previously thought: NASA report

The region on Mars where the researchers focused their observations is called Arabia Terra on the planet’s northern side

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Valleys much younger than well-known ancient valley networks on Mars are evident near the informally named "Heart Lake" on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)
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  • Mars may have been wet much later than previously thought, upping the chance the Red Planet could have hosted microbial life
  • The region on Mars where the researchers focused their observations is called Arabia Terra on the planet’s northern side
  • They determined the area was likely wet between two and three billion years ago, which is considerably later than what most scientists previously thought

Sept 18, 2016: Mars may have been wet much later than previously thought, upping the chance the Red Planet could have hosted microbial life.

Using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, researchers say lakes and streams appeared on Marks a “billion years after a well-documented, earlier era of wet conditions on ancient Mars.” The study appears in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets.

“We discovered valleys that carried water into lake basins,” said Sharon Wilson of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. “Several lake basins filled and overflowed, indicating there was a considerable amount of water on the landscape during this time.”

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The region on Mars where the researchers focused their observations is called Arabia Terra on the planet’s northern side.

“One of the lakes in this region was comparable in volume to Lake Tahoe,” Wilson said, referring to a California-Nevada lake that holds about 45 cubic miles (188 cubic kilometres) of water. “This particular Martian lake was fed by an inlet valley on its southern edge and overflowed along its northern margin, carrying water downstream into a very large, water-filled basin we nicknamed ‘Heart Lake.’

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Researchers say the Heart Lake valley system is about 150 kilometres long. Heart Lake, they say could have held 2,790 cubic kilometres of water, more than Lake Ontario.
The region may not have been wet year round, perhaps depending on seasonal melting of ice and snow to replenish the liquid water.

To come up with a timescale of when the water was there, the researchers examined 22 impact craters and “assessed whether or not the valleys carved into the blankets of surrounding debris ejected from the craters, as an indicator of whether the valleys are older or younger than the craters.”

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They determined the area was likely wet between two and three billion years ago, which is considerably later than what most scientists previously thought.

“The rate at which water flowed through these valleys is consistent with runoff from melting snow,” Wilson said, “These weren’t rushing rivers. They have simple drainage patterns and did not form deep or complex systems like the ancient valley networks from early Mars.”

So while Mars might have been wet later, the question still remains if the planet was habitable.

“A key goal for Mars exploration is to understand when and where liquid water was present in sufficient volume to alter the Martian surface and perhaps provide habitable environments,” said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Scientist Rich Zurek of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “This paper presents evidence for episodes of water modifying the surface on early Mars for possibly several hundred million years later than previously thought, with some implication that the water was enplaced by snow, not rain.” (VOA)

 

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  • Manthra koliyer

    This discovery could lead to many more which is helpful to the makind

  • Enakshi

    it is really good to see such discoveries.

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NASA’s Curiosity Rover Tests New Drill Method On Mars

It now offers Curiosity a vital sense of touch, preventing the drill bit from drifting sideways too much and getting stuck in a rock

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This year NASA discovered few earth like planets. Wikimedia Commons
This year NASA discovered few earth like planets. Wikimedia Commons
  • NASA’s Rover conducted new drill methods on Mars
  • This can help NASA get samples from Mars
  • After this, they can start a more comprehensive study of the planet

NASA’s Curiosity rover has conducted a new drill method on Mars, marking the first operation of the rover’s drill since a motor problem began acting up more than a year ago.

ISS is aIt is the first ever drilling attempt on Mars. Wikimedia Commons permanent base for astronauts stationed in the outer sky. Wikimedia Commons
It is the first ever drilling attempt on Mars. Wikimedia Commons

This early test produced a hole about a one-centimetre deep at a target called Lake Orcadie — not enough for a full scientific sample, but enough to validate that the new method works mechanically, NASA said on Wednesday.

This was just the first in what will be a series of tests to determine how well the new drill method can collect samples. If this drill had achieved sufficient depth to collect a sample, the team would have begun testing a new sample delivery process, ultimately delivering to instruments inside the rover.

Also Read: NASA’s Kepler Discovers Nearly 100 New Exoplanets

Curiosity has used its drill to collect samples 15 times since landing in 2012. Then, in December of 2016, a key part of the drill stopped working.

If the previous method was like a drill press, holding the drill bit steady as it extends into a surface, it is now more freehand. The rover is using its entire arm to push the drill forward, re-centring itself while taking measurements with a force sensor. That sensor was originally included to stop the rover’s arm if it received a high-force jolt, NASA said.

It now offers Curiosity a vital sense of touch, preventing the drill bit from drifting sideways too much and getting stuck in a rock.

This ice which was found can help scientists understand the climate history of Mars. IANS
This will help NASA study Mars more comprehensively. IANS

“We’re now drilling on Mars more like the way you do at home,” said Steven Lee, Deputy Project Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

“Humans are pretty good at re-centring the drill, almost without thinking about it. Programming Curiosity to do this by itself was challenging — especially when it wasn’t designed to do that,” Lee added. IANS