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Researchers discover glass deposits on Mars, possibility of past life on the planet increases

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Washington: In a pioneering feat, researchers have discovered glass deposits on the Red Planet, providing a delicate window into the possibility of past life on the planet.

Using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the team from Brown University detected deposits of glass within impact craters on Mars formed in the searing heat of a violent impact.

Previous research has shown that ancient biosignatures can be preserved in impact glass.

“Knowing this, we wanted to go look for them on Mars and that is what we did here. Before this paper, no one had been able to definitively detect them on the Martian surface,” said Kevin Cannon, PhD student at Brown University.

Cannon and co-author professor Jack Mustard showed that large glass deposits are present in several ancient yet well-preserved craters scattered across the Martian surface.

These glass deposits are relatively common impact features on Mars and could be targets for future exploration.

To identify minerals and rock types remotely, scientists measure the spectra of light reflected off the planet’s surface.

But impact glass does not have a particularly strong spectral signal.

“Glasses tend to be spectrally bland or weakly expressive, so signatures from the glass tend to be overwhelmed by the chunks of rock mixed in with it. But Kevin found a way to tease that signal out,” Mustard said.

In the lab, Kevin mixed together powders with a similar composition of Martian rocks and fired them in an oven to form glass and measured the spectral signal from that glass.

Once he had the signal from the lab glass, he used an algorithm designed to pick out similar signals in data from NASA’s MRO.

The technique was able to pinpoint deposits around several crater central peaks.

The fact that the deposits were found on central peaks is a good indicator that they have an impact origin.

Knowing that impact glass can preserve ancient signs of life opens a potential new strategy in the search for ancient Martian life.

“We think these could be interesting targets for future exploration. In fact, we have a particular spot in mind,” the authors said.

The research was published online in the journal Geology. (IANS)

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NASA Partnering with 10 Start-ups to Develop New Technologies For Space

"Industry is developing new technologies rapidly, using new tools and methods in software development and other areas,"

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NASA researchers have created the atmosphere of a super-hot planet outside our solar system, here on Earth. Pixabay

NASA is inviting applications from start-ups to take part in a three-month pilot programme to develop new technologies for space.

Applications will be accepted till April 7 and a total of 10 companies will be selected for the programme, the US space agency said.

The accelerator programme will focus on technologies that can be applied to space — including geospatial analytics, digital design coupled to advanced manufacturing, autonomous systems, applied Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).

NASA
NASA Administrator James Bridenstine delivers remarks as he tours the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. VOA

“We want to assist these companies in developing their own technologies and becoming commercial successes. NASA will also benefit by collaborating with these companies,” said Tom Cwik, Manager of the Space Technology Office at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

Based in Los Angeles, the accelerator programme begins on July 15. After developing their concepts and business plans over a three-month period, the teams will then pitch their results to the NASA community, co-sponsors and private investors at a demo day in October, NASA said.

Also Read- Intel May Introduce New Processors in Q2

“Industry is developing new technologies rapidly, using new tools and methods in software development and other areas,” said Cwik.

“It’s incumbent upon us to learn from developments in industry and contribute our vast expertise in technology as we prepare to use them in our future missions,” Cwik added. (IANS)