Tuesday July 17, 2018

NASA’s Curiosity rover finds a Wide Variety of Minerals in Martian Rocks

Orbital infrared spectroscopy shows that mountain's lowermost layers have variations in minerals

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The Hubble Space Telescope took this close-up of Mars when it was just 88 million kilometers away. This image was assembled from a series of exposures taken over 36 hours. A new study posits that heavy rain may have once fallen on the Red Planet. (NASA). VOA
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  • Curiosity landed near Mount Sharp in Gale Crater in August 2012 and it reached the base of the mountain in 2014
  • Orbital infrared spectroscopy had shown that the mountain’s lowermost layers have variations in minerals
  • At the base are minerals from a primitive magma source; they are rich in iron and magnesium, similar to basalts in Hawaii, the data showed

Washington, June 12, 2017: Examining initial samples of rocks collected by National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) Mars Curiosity rover, scientists have found a wide diversity of minerals in the lowermost layers of Mount Sharp mountain, suggesting that conditions changed in the water environments on the Red Planet over time.

Curiosity landed near Mount Sharp in Gale Crater in August 2012. It reached the base of the mountain in 2014. Layers of rocks at the base of Mount Sharp accumulated as sediment within ancient lakes around 3.5 billion years ago.

ALSO READ: NASA Mars rover to Study an ancient fluid-carved valley incised on the inner slope of a vast crater’s rim

Orbital infrared spectroscopy had shown that the mountain’s lowermost layers have variations in minerals.

“We went to Gale Crater to investigate these lower layers of Mount Sharp that have these minerals that precipitated from water and suggest different environments,” said Elizabeth Rampe of Nasa’s Johnson Space Center in Houston who is the first author of the study.

“These layers were deposited about 3.5 billion years ago, coinciding with a time on Earth when life was beginning to take hold. We think early Mars may have been similar to early Earth, and so these environments might have been habitable,” Rampe added.

The minerals found in the four samples drilled near the base of Mount Sharp suggest several different environments were present in ancient Gale Crater, according to the study published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

At the base are minerals from a primitive magma source; they are rich in iron and magnesium, similar to basalts in Hawaii, the data showed.

Moving higher in the section, scientists saw more silica-rich minerals.

In the “Telegraph Peak” sample, scientists found minerals similar to quartz. In the “Buckskin” sample, scientists found tridymite.

Tridymite is found on Earth in rocks that formed from partial melting of the Earth’s crust or in the continental crust — a strange finding because Mars never had plate tectonics.

In the “Confidence Hills” and “Mojave 2” samples, scientists found clay minerals, which generally form in the presence of liquid water with a near-neutral pH, and therefore could be good indicators of past environments that were conducive to life. (IANS)

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NASA’S Mars Odyssey Spacecraft Captures First Images of the Martian Moon Phobos after 16 years

Phobos has an oblong shape with an average diameter of about 22 kilometres

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Phobos
On September 29, Phobos was observed by Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera on Mars Odyssey orbiter, which has been launched in 2001. Pixabay

Washington, October 8, 2017 : After orbiting the Red Planet for 16 years, NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft has captured its first images of the Martian moon Phobos.

The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera on Mars Odyssey orbiter, launched in 2001, observed Phobos on September 29.

Phobos has an oblong shape with an average diameter of about 22 kilometres.

Cameras on other Mars orbiters have previously taken higher-resolution images of Phobos, but none with the infrared information available from THEMIS.

Observations in multiple bands of thermal-infrared wavelengths can yield information about the mineral composition of the surface, as well as the surface texture, NASA said in a statement this week.

“Although THEMIS has been at Mars for 16 years, this was the first time we have been able to turn the spacecraft around to look at Phobos,” said THEMIS Mission Planner Jonathon Hill of Arizona State University.

The researchers combined visible-wavelength and infrared data to produce an image color-coded for surface temperatures of this moon, which has been considered for a potential future human-mission outpost, NASA said.

“This half-moon view of Phobos was chosen because it allowed us to observe a wide range of temperatures on the surface,” Hill added.

ALSO READ NASA Scientists Reveal New Information on Mars’ Formation and Evolution, Claim The Red Planet has a Porous Crust

One major question about Phobos and Mars’ even smaller moon, Deimos, is whether they are captured asteroids or bits of Mars knocked into the sky by impact.

The researchers believe that compositional information from THEMIS might help pin down their origin.

Since Odyssey began orbiting the Red Planet in 2001, THEMIS has provided compositional and thermal properties information from all over Mars, but never before imaged either Martian moon.

The September 29 observation was completed to validate that the spacecraft could safely do so, as the start of a possible series of observations of Phobos and Deimos in coming months.

“There is heightened interest in Phobos because of the possibility that future astronauts could perhaps use it as an outpost,” said Odyssey Project Scientist Jeffrey Plaut of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (IANS)