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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 Launches Interactive Website Letting Users Explore In What Ways Space Technology Impacts Their Everyday Life

The US agency's collaboration with commercial companies has helped bring space technology back to Earth for over 50 years

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NASA
NASA's new website shows how space tech impacts people's day-to-day lives. Flickr

NASA has launched a new interactive website that lets users explore how space technology impacts everyday life on Earth.

The new website, called NASA Home and City, features about 130 spinoff technologies in a virtual space, allowing users to tour through buildings and rooms to discover common items that NASA inspired or helped improve, the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.

These spinoffs are commercial products that apply NASA technology originally developed for studying and exploring space.

“Introducing NASA Home and City! A brand new interactive website where you can explore all the ways NASA benefits you in your daily life,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, said in a tweet.

“From GPS to airplanes, from baby formula to the camera in your phone, NASA technology is all around you!” he added.

NASA
This is NASA’s Latest innovation. Pixabay

The US agency’s collaboration with commercial companies has helped bring space technology back to Earth for over 50 years.

These range from water filtration systems, originally designed to purify water for the Apollo astronauts to durable wind turbines, designed with Mars in mind to the selfie taking camera, the report said.

Also read- Apple CEO Tim Cook: “New iPhones Worth The Cost”

“Our space technology continues to improve life on Earth,” said Jim Reuter, the acting associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

“NASA Home and City is a place of discovery for people, and especially students, who have ever wondered why space exploration should matter to them,” Reuter noted. (IANS)