Mars rover Curiosity finds signs of ancient stream
2012 09 28

By Alicia Chang | AssociatedPress

The NASA rover Curiosity has beamed back pictures of bedrock that suggest a fast-moving stream, possibly waist-deep, once flowed on Mars — a find that the mission’s chief scientist called exciting.



There have been previous signs that water existed on the red planet long ago, but the images released Thursday showing pebbles rounded off, likely by water, offered the most convincing evidence so far of an ancient streambed.

There was "a vigorous flow on the surface of Mars," said chief scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology. "We’re really excited about this."

The discovery did not come as a complete surprise. NASA decided to plunk Curiosity down inside Gale Crater near the Martian equator because photos from space hinted that the spot possessed a watery past. The six-wheeled rover safely landed Aug. 5 after a nail-biting plunge through the Martian atmosphere. It’s on a two-year, $2.5 billion mission to study whether the Martian environment could have been favorable for microbial life.

Present day Mars is a frozen desert with no hint of water on its radiation-scarred surface, but geological studies of rocks by previous missions suggest the planet was warmer and wetter once upon a time.

The latest evidence came from photos that Curiosity took revealing rounded pebbles and gravel — a sign that the rocks were transported long distances by water and smoothed out.

The size of the rocks — ranging from a sand grain to a golf ball — indicates that they could not have been carried by wind, said mission scientist Rebecca Williams of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz.

Though Curiosity did not use its high-tech instruments to drill into the rocks or analyze their chemical makeup, Grotzinger said scientists were sure that water played a role based on just studying the pictures.

It’s unclear how long the water persisted on the surface, but it easily could have lasted "thousands to millions of years," said mission scientist Bill Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley.

Curiosity chanced upon the dried-up streambed while driving to Glenelg, an intriguing spot where three types of terrain meet. Its ultimate destination is Mount Sharp, a mountain rising from the center of crater floor, but it was not expected to travel there until the end of the year.

Finding past water is a first step toward learning whether the environment could have supported microbes. Scientists generally agree that besides water and an energy source such as the sun, organic carbon is a necessary prerequisite for life.

While an ancient streambed holds promise as a potentially habitable environment, scientists don’t think it’s a good place to preserve the carbon building blocks of life. That’s why the rover will continue its trek to the foothills of Mount Sharp where there’s a better chance of finding organics.


Article from: news.yahoo.com



Related Articles
What Would It Mean If There Used To Be Life on Mars?
Curiosity Finds Pyramid Rocks on Mars
Mystery Spheres on Mars Baffle Scientists


Latest News from our Front Page

Your Smartphone Broadcasts Your Entire Life To The Secret Service
2014 09 23
Intelligence services collect metadata on the communication of all citizens. Politicians would have us believe that this data doesn’t say all that much. A reader of De Correspondent put this to the test and demonstrated otherwise: metadata reveals a lot more about your life than you think. Ton Siedsma is nervous. He made the decision weeks ago, but keeps postponing it. ...
Scots were tricked into voting ‘No’ – Salmond
2014 09 23
London politicians gulled Scottish voters out of independence by making a false “vow” to grant Glasgow extra powers, First Minister Alex Salmond has said. He also raised the prospect of another referendum, saying the break-up is inevitable. Alex Salmond, leader of the ’Yes’ campaign and the outgoing head of the Scottish National Party (SNP), told the BBC’s Sunday Politics program that ...
The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola
2014 09 23
The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity. Suspected Ebola patient Finda “Zanabo” prays over her sick family members before being admitted to the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on Aug. 21, 2014, near Monrovia, Liberia. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images As the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has spiraled out of control, affecting thousands of Liberians, Sierra Leonians, and Guineans, ...
Man bitten by Ebola patient flown to Switzerland
2014 09 22
Swiss authorities say a male nurse who was bitten by an Ebola patient while working in West Africa has been flown to Switzerland as a precaution. The health ministry says the unidentified man was working for an international organization in Sierra Leone when he was bitten by a child infected with Ebola on Saturday. The ministry says the nurse was wearing protective ...
Climate March in New York City Reveals Communists Demanding ’Revolution, Nothing Less’ - Trash the City With Garbage
2014 09 22
Tens-of-thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of New York City Sunday to demand political leaders take action on climate change. While the protest remained peaceful, much of the “People’s Climate March” appeared to be made up of fringe elements of the political left. Dozens of signs denouncing capitalism were spotted at the demonstration, often held by self-proclaimed socialists. “Capitalism is destroying the ...
More News »