Scientists recently discovered that water was present in an area of Mars called “Arabia Terra”, for only a brief period.
A team of collaborating scientists from Northern Arizona University and Johns Hopkins University researched the history of Arabia, an area north of Mars, and discovered Ari Kopel, study co-author and Ph. Northern Arizona UniversityHe and his colleagues argue that the region likely hosted water in the Red Planet’s short past.
The “Land of Arabia” is located in the northern latitudes of Mars. This ancient land was called “the land of the Arabs” in 1879, by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, and it covers an area slightly larger than the European continent.
The “Ard Al Arab” contains craters, volcanic craters, valleys and beautiful rocky strips reminiscent of the sedimentary rock layers in the colorful desert or badlands.
These rock layers and how they formed were the focus of the team’s research in the study, “A Fragile Record of Transiting Water on Mars,” funded by NASA’s Mars Data Analysis Program.
“We were specifically interested in using rocks on Mars to better understand past environments three to four billion years ago and whether there were suitable climatic conditions for life on the surface,” Koppel said. There would be stable water, what would the atmosphere be like, what would the temperature be on the surface.”
In order to gain a better understanding of what happened to the formation of rock layers, scientists focused on thermal inertia, which determines the ability of a material to change temperature.
The sand, with its small, loose particles, quickly gains and loses heat, while solid rock remains warm long after dark.
By looking at surface temperatures, they were able to determine the physical properties of the rocks in their study area. They can tell if a material is loose and wears away when it appears solid.
“No one has done an in-depth investigation into the thermal inertia of these really interesting sediments, which cover much of the surface of Mars,” explained Associate Professor Christopher Edwards of Northern Arizona University’s Department of Astronomy and Planetary Sciences.
To complete the study, Kobel used remote sensing instruments in orbiting satellites.
“Just like geologists on Earth, we look at rocks to try to tell stories about past environments. On Mars, we’re a little more limited. We can’t go to an outcrop and collect samples, we rely too heavily on satellite data. So, there are a number of Few of the satellites orbit Mars, and each has its own set of instruments, and each instrument plays its own role in helping us describe the rocks on the surface.”
Through a series of investigations using this remotely collected data, they looked at thermal inertia, as well as evidence of corrosion, the state of the drilling and what minerals were present.
“We discovered that these sediments are much less compact than previously thought, which indicates that this place could have contained water only for a short period,” Coppel explained.
He pointed out that these results destroy the hopes of many, “because we often think that having more water for a longer time means that there is a greater chance of life being there at some time.”
“For us, it’s really exciting because it raised a whole bunch of new questions. What were the conditions that would have allowed water to be there for a short period of time? Could there be glaciers that melted quickly with massive floods?” Is there a groundwater system that seeps out of the ground for a brief period only to sink again?”
Source: Science Daily
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