There Is Something Weird About Mars’ Ancient Atmosphere

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Although NASA has been examining Mars for over 40 years – as can be seen on NASA’s website – relatively little concrete evidence of water on Mars has been found. What has been found are dark, narrow lines streaking down the slopes of Garni Crater, called “recurring slope lineae”.

The Mystery of Mars’ Water

While this does not constitute infallible evidence, scientists have seen similar patterns on Earth in certain regions during the Spring, as the snow and ice melts and carries away sediment with it, forming streaks. Scientists at NASA hypothesize that these streaks are caused by briny liquid water flowing down the slopes during Mars’ warmer season.

According to the Thomas Bristow – the Staff Scientist at Nasa’s Ames Research Center, as well as the lead author of the study – the conditions in the Gale Crater appear to once have been conducive to life, being neither too hot, nor too cold, and with plenty of relatively salt-free water. Biologists will agree that these are the prerequisites for life beginning to form on a planet, however, Mars no longer fits that profile. From this, it can be concluded that at one point in time, Mars was considerably warmer than it is now, either through greenhouse gasses, through the protective nature of ice caps, by having a different orbit, or by some other means currently unknown.

As part of the exploration of Mars, NASA sent numerous rovers to the Red Planet – http://www.space.com/16496-mars-landing-missions-timeline.html – in order to collect data on the planet’s surface and near-surface soil and environment. However, analysis of these samples has resulted in no evidence for the hypothesis of a sufficiently large quantity of carbon-based greenhouse gasses, such as carbon-dioxide or carbon-monoxide, in Mars’ atmosphere 3.5 billion years ago, when the samples were deposited in the Gale Crater. While there are other greenhouse gasses, such as methane, sulfur dioxide, or nitrous oxide, that could be responsible for the evidence of past water on Mars, all of these greenhouse gasses have a relatively short lifespan, and so would have dissipated long ago. In addition to this, observations of Gale Crater lead scientists to believe that water was present there for a substantial period of time, and the shorter-lived non-carbon greenhouse gasses would not have remained long enough to leave such evidence. There is the theory that there may have once been carbon-based gasses located on Mars, but that they were destroyed later. However, the data in the samples does not lend itself to this conclusion.

Another theory currently held by scientists is that the ice caps of Mars could have acted as a form of insulation from the freezing temperatures of space. It has been found that the Martian ice caps contain two kinds of ice: dry ice, which is supercooled carbon dioxide, and water ice – https://themis.asu.edu/node/5392. There are several trains of thought in regards to these ice caps, that they acted as a form of insulation, or that this is where the carbon dioxide needed for the warmer temperatures that produce water went.

A final theory is that Mars may have had a different orbit at one point, most likely closer to the Sun. However, there is currently no definitive evidence of the kind of major orbit change in Mars’ trajectory that would be necessary to account for the temperatures needed to melt water-based ice.

There is still much research and exploration to be done on Mars. All new data discovered about the planet adds to the puzzle that is Mars, as scientists work to better understand the Red Planet that is our neighbor.

This article (There Is Something Weird About Mars’ Ancient Atmosphere ) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with full attribution and a link to the original source on Disclose.tv

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